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Editor leaves with ‘heavy heart’ as newsroom shake-up continues

Roger Hawes

A weekly newspaper editor has become the latest to leave Johnston Press as the publisher’s newsroom shake-up continues.

Roger Hawes, left, leaves his role at the helm of the Bucks Herald, Bucks Advertiser, Hemel Hempstead Gazette and the Buckingham and Winslow Advertiser “with a heavy heart” after 25 years as an editor.

His departure is the latest of a series of changes in the company’s South Midlands division, under the “newsroom of the future” initiative which is being rolled out across JP.

Earlier this week, HTFP reported that Northants Telegraph editor Neil Pickford was leaving his role to become editor of a new ‘community news hub’ for the division.

The reorganisation has seen JP’s South Midlands titles split into four geographic divisions, each headed up by an editor reporting to group editor David Summers, who also edits the Northampton Chronicle and Echo.

The changes have also seen two centralised hubs created, one for managing community news and the other for sport.

Roger, who moved to JP from the family-owned Berkshire Media Group, penned a farewell piece to readers about his departure this week.

In it, he revealed that Jason Gibbins would now take the helm at the four Bucks and Herts titles, in addition to his existing role as editor of the Banbury Guardian, supported by deputy editors Adam King and Ben Raza.

Said Roger: “After three-and-a-half years at the helm, this will be my final editorial comment as editor of your newspaper.

“It is with a heavy heart that I leave. It has been a privilege to lead the team here, but I have decided it is time to call it a day.

“My departure comes at a time of change within the editorial teams in this area. What will that change mean for regular readers and local organisations that deal with the papers on a day-to-day basis?

“Well, very little in real terms as everyone will still be able to share local stories with their favourite local paper both in print and online.”

Roger said the communities content will be co-ordinated by Neil with a new team of community reporters, while Damien Lucas would take responsibility for growing the audiences of newspaper websites in the area.

He added: “I hope during my tenure you have appreciated the hard work at transforming all the papers into the modern interesting compact products you read today.

“Times are changing in this industry and our titles have established excellent digital audiences. The challenge for the new team will be to continue this growth and expand our audiences even further.

“From my first job in Hemel Hempstead as a sales clerk to a junior reporter on the Dunstable Gazette through to more than 25 years as a local paper editor – it has been a privilege to serve a large number of communities, fulfilling my strongly held belief that whatever opportunities the new technology and new media throws our way ‘life still remains truly local’. Thank you all.”

Roger oversaw the Bucks Herald’s move from broadsheet to compact in May 2012.

His departure comes shortly after he penned a column in which he raised concerns about the use of anonymous comments by newspapers and their websites which has since spawned a lively debate on HTFP.

A spokeswoman for Johnston Press told HTFP earlier this week: “Over the coming days, weeks and months our news teams will start to work in different ways – many roles will change as our business continues to adapt to the changing environment.

“Our new approach will help to enable teams across the business deliver what our readers and advertisers want and our focus will be on ensuring we’re delivering quality products – both online and in print.”

30 comments

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  • April 23, 2015 at 7:56 am
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    oooo – he does go on a bit doesn’t he. You’d think he was leaving something important. Regards, Dave.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 8:18 am
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    “Our new approach will help to enable teams across the business deliver what our readers and advertisers want and our focus will be on ensuring we’re delivering quality products …” Isn’t this what was being delivered, very successfully (and locally), by companies before they were owned by JP? Enabling your ‘teams’ does not mean they will necessarily deliver, as they did in the past.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 8:46 am
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    Its a huge wrench if you have gone through it for someone who loves journalism and should not be underestimated by the bean counters who dominate the industry. So much experience is being lost and some newsrooms resemble creches.
    Good luck Roger and forgive the “exJP-” old habits die hard.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 9:09 am
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    Behind all this guffaw are real communities being disregarded and left leafing solemnly through endless pages of lightweight drivel, no doubt written by the people in those communities. What we have here is a sanitising of traditional journalism, investigations, and feature-packed articles. I worked in a JP newsroom 10 years ago, glad I’m not in one now. I’m fed up with heralding online traffic, bottom line is facebook has great traffic too, what a load of rubbish that is. I liken modern newsrooms to airforce bases operating drones – remote, souless, and viewing the world through a small screen. Anyway, good luck.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 9:27 am
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    The suits in charge of this wretched industry would do well to consider that their parasitic sinecures will come to an abrupt end not long after they’ve sacked all the staff from whose efforts they’ve been leeching a very nice living.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 9:30 am
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    This is an unusually honest farewell address as, by admitting to a “heavy heart”, Roger is also telling the world he’s been sacked (to use a blunt, old-fashioned but truthful word). Worse, he’s been sacked because the quarter-of-a-century of experience – and innate flair – he brings to the job is perceived to be surplus to requirements by the JP suits, who are undoubtedly bursting with all sorts of talents themselves. It’s a hard blow to take but confronting it so directly is a good start to rebuilding his life, which may sound trite now but it will happen, Roger. Those of us left wait for our turn, of course, which won’t be long coming. Anyway, must dash as there is an 18-year-old intern who needs instruction on uploading traffic news to the web.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 10:07 am
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    Welcome to the former editors warehouse my friend…there is still life in the old dogs yet.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 10:24 am
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    Had the privilege of working under Roger in my first journalism role at the Slough Observer.
    JP’s loss.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 11:45 am
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    Shame on your cynicism, Dave, London. Perhaps if and when you have been around as long as Roger and achieved as much you might leave with a heavy heart after such treatment.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 12:10 pm
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    He is better off out of it….now go enter the ex editor’s warehouse but do not despair. There is life beyond the modern day treadmill. Plenty of work out there for old stagers, believe me.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 12:52 pm
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    Nasty cheap shot from Dave of London.
    Local editors – and I’m sure Roger fits this bill – are usually excellent journalists who are dedicated to their area. They are invariably sound professionals with the full skills set of proper newspapermen(women) and devote themselves to the interests of their readers.
    In every respect, their job IS important.
    The fact that Roger survived for 25 years at the helm suggests he is better than most.
    I do hope Dave isn’t one of those London hacks hammering out globally IMPORTANT stories like “Kim Kardashian shows off her boobies’ or ‘Posh Beckham wears buckskin hot pants’.
    More likely he is a sad, spotty little shut-in who wishes he could have been a newspaper editor.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 12:53 pm
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    Newsroom of the future eh? More like empty room of the future.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 1:30 pm
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    Worked with Rog at the Slough Observer, an all-round good guy and a proper old-school newsman who knew the virtues of reporters on their patches and actually investing in the community. We had many a chat about the changing state of newspapers and what could be done. I jumped ship a few years back now, glad Roger was able to do the job he always wanted, albeit for not long enough and wish him all the best for the future.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 1:42 pm
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    There’s no mention of Roger’s age, which is invariably the most critical factor in redundo. If you have a decent pension to fall back on and are in touching distance of 65, redundo’s a cause for celebration.
    If you have a few years to go, you leave with a heavy heart in the almost certain knowledge that your redundo will go on paying the bills until your pension kicks in.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 1:45 pm
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    Kim Kardashian is the future people. Live with it.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 2:48 pm
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    So, is that it then? Editors are just unnecessary now?

    That’s about 25 that are out there somewhere in the last five years.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 2:54 pm
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    Oooooh that was a sour bitter comment by Dave of London. Flint for a heart?

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  • April 23, 2015 at 3:27 pm
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    I suggest we leave Dave of London’s ironically intended but ineptly delivered ‘comment’ in the dust in which it deserves to expire. Of far greater importance is Slate Grey’s tally of 25 editors who have copped it in the past five years. Perhaps the suits are cottoning on that all you need to get something out there – and never mind the quality because they don’t – is a middle-ranking suit and a youth group on £12k pa each. The rest of 2015, as viewed on the HTFP, seems set to be a dismal parade of departing talent. Right, where can I pick up a cheap suit?

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  • April 23, 2015 at 5:17 pm
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    Just when you think JP must have run out of madcap ideas to strangle their once- worthy papers some suit with a fat bank balance delivers another squeeze on the windpipe. Where do they find them? JP’s future is all behind it.

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  • April 23, 2015 at 5:46 pm
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    How will they be able to hold multiple news conferences, or will they be gone under the newsroom of the future as well?

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  • April 23, 2015 at 9:22 pm
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    London Dave. Who are you and where have you been working? I suspect you will be careful with your response. Gutless comes to mind.

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  • April 24, 2015 at 12:01 am
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    Had the pleasure of working with Roger in Uxbridge many moons ago, top bloke, good all round hack with bags of character. Shame another one bites the dust… Mind you, 25 redundant editors pales into insignificance when compared to the ‘sardine’ filled bulging warehouse of ex snappers! All the best for the future Roger.

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  • April 24, 2015 at 8:42 am
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    Because the once well-respected Banbury Guardian now relies almost exclusively on re-hashed publicity handouts for news and sport readers in Bucks and Herts can expect the same in future..

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  • April 24, 2015 at 9:49 am
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    I took Dave of London’s comment to be ironic and even a bit wistful.

    It can sometimes be lonely at 36,000 feet.

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  • April 24, 2015 at 2:01 pm
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    It’s coming soon at a JP paper near you! Get out if you can.

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  • April 28, 2015 at 7:51 am
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    The bean counters will doubtless be pleased. Another ‘cost unit’ removed from the payroll, overheads reduced. Further opportunities to replacing content created in-house with cheap reader-created content.

    The next logical step might be to phase out all remaining in-house ‘content gatherers’ upon the payroll, and and make good use of the government’s workfare scheme. Consider the possibilities! Unpaid bods shoveling UGC into templates! This must surely be the way forward, no?

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  • April 29, 2015 at 1:28 pm
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    Local newspapers were the heart of the community when I worked on them half a century ago and Roger is probably well out of the PR-ridden shambles they have become. Damn good editor and JP should be ashamed of themselves.

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