Regional publisher Newsquest has defended its controversial decision to move production of its Yorkshire and North-East titles to South Wales as the first paper switched over to the new system.
This week’s Gazette & Herald in North Yorkshire hit the streets yesterday after becoming the first of the group’s titles in the region to move production to the new central unit in Newport.
The plans have proved bitterly controversial with up to 25 subbing roles in Bradford, York and Darlington at risk and led to a one-day strike by National Union of Journalists members at the three centres last week.
But editors have described some of the union’s comments about the new system as “a lot of nonsense” and have declared themselves “delighted” with the results of the Gazette & Herald move – although the union claims it went “far from smoothly.”
Steve Hughes, managing editor of Newsquest York, said journalists on the weekly paid-for are now working on the PCS digital content management system Knowledge.
The new system is set to be introduced across Newsquest’s titles in Yorkshire and the North East, including the Press in York, the Telegraph & Argus in Bradford and the Northern Echo in Darlington.
Said Steve: “We are delighted with the result. The Gazette is the first title in Yorkshire and the North East to move to the new system and the first issue looks great.”
“It’s a really well thought out system which is fully integrated with the web and allows our journalists to work much more efficiently, doing what they do best which is getting out and about and covering local news and sport.
“Part of the production process is now carried out at the central unit but all our reporters, photographers and sports staff are based on the patch and all key editorial decisions are made locally.
“There’s a been a lot of nonsense said and written about our papers being edited in Wales which is mischievous and simply not true.”
Jo Kelly, editor of the Gazette, added: “I’m very pleased with today’s paper and don’t think our readers will notice any change.
“However, now that production is fully integrated with the internet, our reporters will have more time to concentrate on writing and covering events in the communities we serve.”
However NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser Chris Morley said: “We have heard that, despite Newsquest’s spin and backslapping, the production of the first edition of the weekly Gazette and Herald in York under the new system went far from smoothly and was mired in errors and confusion right up to and including the day the paper was produced.
“The templates for the paper were the wrong size, despite the dimensions having been sent to the centralised unit many weeks in advance.
“Staff, who already work long hours, had to come into the office the weekend before publication to deal with problems and had to work many hours beyond their usual finishing time on Tuesday, production day, to ensure the paper got out.
“A training manager and a full complement of IT staff were also required to oversee matters, which is surely not sustainable.
“If this is how Newsquest sees the smooth production of a title, it raises serious concerns. We are deeply worried about its response, as it does not bode well for future production of daily titles.
“Our fears, and those of editorial staff at Newsquest, have not been allayed at all by the evidence so far –if anything, they have increased.”
The NUJ claims ten subbing jobs are at risk in Darlington, ten in Bradford and five in York as a result of the changes.