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Regional daily editor to depart in fresh JP management shake-up

Jon RhodesThe editor of a regional daily is set to leave his role to pursue “other ambitions” amid a fresh management shake-up at Johnston Press.

Jon Rhodes, pictured left, is leaving The Gazette, Blackpool, after just under three years in the chair.

Former Gazette editor Gillian Parkinson, currently Johnston Press North West editorial director and editor of the Lancashire Evening Post, will assume additional responsibility for the newspaper following Jon’s departure.

The move comes amid a series of ongoing management shake-ups across the company which has seen six editor roles placed at risk in the South Midlands and and admission by the chief executive, Ashley Highfield, that it would employ fewer journalists in future.

Jon, 43, has worked for JP-owned titles since 1992, including spells at the Lancashire Evening Post and Yorkshire Evening Post, after starting his career at the Chester Evening Leader straight from school.

He took up the editorship of The Gazette in May 2012 having spent the previous eight years as its head of news, and is also responsible for weekly titles the Lytham St Annes Express and Fleetwood Weekly News.

Said Jon: “It has been an incredible honour and privilege to have been editor of The Gazette.

“In the last two years we have seen our total audience grow to more than 300,000 readers a week, won several awards, launched many hard hitting campaigns and investigations and raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for local charities – none more so than the £268,000 Gazette readers gave in 2014 to transform two Blackpool-based hospices.

“But above all, I want to say a massive thank you to the dedicated editorial team. They have proved time and again what truly talented journalists they are and the reason why the Gazette is so widely regarded as a quality newspaper which shouts up for and celebrates the Fylde coast while always giving its readers a voice.”

Johnston Press North West managing director Warren Butcher added: “I want to thank Jon for the commitment and energy he has brought to the business and wish him every success in his future endeavours.”

The announcement comes after Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield admitted this week the company would be left with “fewer full-time journalists” in the future.

As also reported on HTFP this week Susan Windram, group editor of 11 weekly titles at JP subsidiary North East Press, has also decided to leave the company.

JP is currently in the process of introducing its “newsroom of the future” initiative in three of its UK regions – North Midlands and South Yorkshire, South Midlands and Scottish weeklies, with fewer editor roles likely to result.

The project will also see journalists working on multiple titles after being split into different geographical hubs.

27 comments

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  • March 11, 2015 at 12:26 pm
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    Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside
    I do like to be beside the sea!
    I do like to stroll along the Prom, Prom, Prom!
    Where the brass bands play:
    “all the journalists are gone gone gone!”

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  • March 11, 2015 at 1:21 pm
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    This is a big loss for JP and the Gazette.
    Worked with Jon in Blackpool and he’s a cracking editor, passionate about what he does but above all he’s a top bloke and someone who respects his staff.
    Good luck Jon

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  • March 11, 2015 at 3:49 pm
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    The last industry to have restructures this widespread and brutal was Stalin’s military.

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  • March 11, 2015 at 5:05 pm
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    I seem to remember he won two awards at the JP annual do last year.

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  • March 11, 2015 at 5:06 pm
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    Message is clear. Newspapermen and women surplus to requirements.get digitalised or die.

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  • March 11, 2015 at 5:47 pm
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    I was worrying. It had been a while since someone quit or was pushed from JP. Thanks for the bad news. JP reminds me of a rudderless ghost ship with no-one aboard.

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  • March 11, 2015 at 6:29 pm
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    For Jeff Jones:
    The difference was: Stalin’s military won the bloody Second World War!

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  • March 11, 2015 at 9:08 pm
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    There is life after journalism. I’m proof of that, yet another journalist who has gone into PR. But it will never be the life you enjoyed as a journalist. I left The Gazette, the paper edited by Jon, in January 2014. I wasn’t pushed, I leapt – after 40 years in journalism. I was tired and wondered for how much longer I could keep firing on all cylinders writing double pagers night after night and all the trimmings – with my own health beginning to let me down and as a carer too.
    I now earn more than I did and work half the hours I did and I’ve got some great new colleagues and enjoy what I do.
    But I miss the newsroom, the banter, the dark humour – and I miss Jon and the rest of the team, editorial and otherwise, too. He’s a first rate newsman, a journalists’ journalist, a great writer, social commentator, and an exemplary editor who put the paper, the local community and his staff first. Our (I still call it that) loss will be some other industry’s gain – his work record, his ethics, his contacts and his range of expertise, and his bloody minded determination to do a job brilliantly, will be more than welcome elsewhere.
    But there can be no better job, for a local lad, than editing your local paper – in fact, three of them, as Jon did, the daily and the two weeklies. He’s been an inspiration – and an absolute pain at times – but I’d rate him the best editor the paper’s had and under the most trying of circumstances. I wish him – and all my former colleagues – well.

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  • March 12, 2015 at 8:35 am
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    Good luck to Jon. He’s one of the industry’s nice guys

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  • March 12, 2015 at 8:55 am
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    Knew Jon at Leeds. Good bloke, good journalist. Deserved better than this. Good luck for the future Jon.

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  • March 12, 2015 at 11:38 am
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    Hands down, the best journalist I’ve ever worked under. A top-notch legal mind, ever-demanding that writers get that extra quote, that extra bit of corroborative evidence for a story, to the benefit of the journalist, the newspaper, the company and the industry as a whole. Losing him is pure folly for JP and The Gazette. Ludicrous to let him go.

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  • March 12, 2015 at 11:41 am
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    JP loses its editor of the year, now that is careless.
    This guy is a regional newspaper legend. The things he and his team have done over the last few years have been stunning.
    He is going to be sorely missed, no more than by his team who must be gutted.
    All the very best Jon, as said elsewhere on here you are one of the good guys of the industry

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  • March 12, 2015 at 11:47 am
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    Jacqui puts it really well. I ‘knew of’ Jon and heard only good things. It’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening to the industry we all loved working in and, I suspect, most of us still wish we could.
    I often get friends with teenage sons and daughters asking me ‘what’s the best way to get into newspaper journalism these days’. I think you all know what my answer to them is.

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  • March 12, 2015 at 12:22 pm
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    As another ex-JP journalist (and even more expensively, a shareholder) I’d rather have a passionate, committed and highly-competent editor like Jon Rhodes in charge of editorial strategy than the latest hot-shot digital guru. Does Ashley Highfield really think his few remaining loyal readers will be satisfied with contributors copy – tantamount to graffiti, without punctuation?

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  • March 12, 2015 at 12:37 pm
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    Good post Jacqui

    I made the same move for the same reasons, except into copywriting. Everything about it is better, the wages, the conditions, pension, hours, you name it, except….the actual job itself.

    I don’t think any job compares to newspaper journalism. I worked at a daily and have done some work at a national, and I’ve never been as happy in my life as when I worked at my local weekly paper. Interview the new Detective Inspector one minute, and the local mentalist about his UFO sighting the next, nothing in the way of office politics at all, dartboard in the office, hot tea and coffee on tap , and a readership who valued your product and, in return, you respected their money and time and wanted to do a good job.

    Other jobs for former journalists tend to be just ‘jobs’, journalists are, by their nature, not comfortable working with boundaries or for other people, yet PR and writing jobs tend to be for big companies or for what we often consider to be pointless ends – i.e making money for someone else, so I think a journo in another career always tends to be slightly unhappy, I know I am, but needs must – there’s no going back because there’s nothing to go back to – there will never be another working environment like a local weekly, especially with the way society and the whole work/life balance thing has shifted, fun and pure pleasure are no longer part of the working deal.

    It’s a tragedy, and I feel like Henry Hill from the end of goodfellas: “I had it all, but now I’m just another average nobody, I get to live the rest of my life like a shnook.”

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  • March 12, 2015 at 1:09 pm
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    Dear Jacqui Morley. You could have just said: “There is life after journalism.” That was all, but thanks for your life story.

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  • March 12, 2015 at 1:18 pm
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    Jacqui and Jeff, thanks. That’s the first time HTFP has moved me to tears. I still can’t believe this is all happening to our wonderful industry. It’s so sad.

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  • March 12, 2015 at 2:13 pm
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    To echo Jacqui and Jeff, I made the move to the ‘dark side’ some time ago. Everything about it is better (the money, conditions, lack of stress, people are nicer if more bland) but I will always miss my early days in local reporting. Every weekend I would have an anecdote from the working week to tell my friends. How many jobs can offer that? Most of all, though, I miss the satisfaction of holding each week’s new paper and flicking through its crisp pages to admire what the team had achieved together. However, as the years went by, and staff numbers were cut, cut and cut again, plus centralisation and other changes, any joy vanished from the job and I realised this industry has no future.

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  • March 12, 2015 at 3:17 pm
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    Nuff said, I bet you think pathos is one of the Three Muskateers. Sacked any nice subs lately?

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  • March 12, 2015 at 3:30 pm
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    Well put Kendo.

    My Mrs is a teacher and has stories to tell me every day, a couple of years back I could have told her some stories too, ‘got sent to the aftermath of a bank robbery, Peter Kaye lookalike seen running away’, ‘went up in a helicopter with some minor celebrities’, ‘interviewed Paul Daniels about his missing finger’.

    These days it’s ‘they had tacos in the canteen, they were quite nice’.

    Also, and I apologise for the bad taste, but there are few finer moments in a new reporter’s life than reading his own stories on the lavatory.

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  • March 12, 2015 at 7:49 pm
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    Jeff Jones, yes very funny. But just like Stalin I don’t give a damn! Sacking subs is the best part of my job.

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  • March 12, 2015 at 8:56 pm
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    Jeff you have a canteen!

    You have an office!

    You like tacos!

    Don’t spare us the life story nuf said you are a beaut

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  • March 12, 2015 at 9:44 pm
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    Totally agree with Kendo, Jacqui and Jeff. Those of us who’ve worked for decades in newspapers, and enjoyed the banter, the off-the-cuff jokes, the thrill of exclusives – and even the humdrum local magistrates’ courts – can’t shake off the feeling that journalism is the best job ever. Having left JP for PR, where everything is sanitised and ‘approved’, I’d go back to local papers in a heartbeat, if only there was a thriving industry to return to.
    Sadly, the bean counters have deprived readers of the skilled staff that made the pages come alive.

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  • March 13, 2015 at 10:47 am
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    I worked in journalism until I got pushed out. Now I work for a corporate communications company. I earn four times as much as what I did before, and I drive a Ferrari, and my partner goes to Royal Ascot, and we have an account even HSBC don’t know about and I don’t think this is an appropriate comment…

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  • March 15, 2015 at 3:24 pm
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    It’s obvious JP wouldn’t have wanted to keep Jon. He sounds far too experienced and professional.

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