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Journalists call for regional daily not to defend industry award

Journalists at a regional daily have asked for its nomination for a major industry award to be withdrawn in protest at photographic redundancies at their newspaper.

The Leicester Mercury won the Regional Daily Newspaper of the Year crown at the 2015 newsawards, a set of awards dedicated to highlighting excellence in print and digital production journalism, and has been nominated for the same prize this year.

But the National Union of Journalists chapel at the paper says allowing it defend the title at this year’s event would send the “wrong message” to the industry in a year which has seen four photographers leave the paper.

The Mercury was one of two former Local World titles which underwent a radical restructuring of its picture desk operations earlier this year, along with the Nottingham Post.

The front page of yesterday's Mercury

The front page of yesterday’s Mercury

The redundancies mean the photographic department at the Mercury is now staffed by one picture curator, previously the chief photographer, one full-time and one part-time photographer.

A letter from the Mercury chapel to organisers of the event, formerly known as the Newspaper Awards, says it believes any nomination from the paper would not reflect the awards’ commitment to the “highest standards in print journalism”.

It reads: “High-quality photographs are an essential component of the style and content of the Mercury and despite the excellence of the skeleton photographic team that will remain, it is inevitable that standards of the print product will decline as use of file pictures and amateur contributions increases.

“We believe our continued nomination would not reflect the awards’ commitment to the highest standards in print journalism. It would also send the wrong message to managers who have already eroded the design and integrity of the paper you praised last year through the increased use of generic features content produced elsewhere.”

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser, added: “Our members are bitterly disappointed they have to take this step to highlight the damage being done to their award-winning title.

“They are standing up for quality journalism – it’s a pity the company is prepared to take such risks with a title long associated with journalistic excellence.

“No one is fooled that squandering the pool of high grade staff news photographers at the Mercury will not be missed or noticed. The sudden departure of the editor and looming reorganisation in this newsroom are also worrying signs for this proud newspaper.

“Our members will not acquiesce to this dumbing down of a key skill and do not intend to facilitate it either.”

It was announced last week that Mercury editor Kevin Booth is leaving the paper at the end of this week for “personal reasons” after 18 months in charge.

He has been succeeded in the short-term by Rob Irvine, who has been seconded by Trinity Mirror from his role as editor of the Manchester Evening News to oversee the Mercury until a new editor is appointed.

At the time of the Mercury’s nomination, Kevin said: “To be shortlisted for a second year in such a competitive field is an outstanding achievement and one that reflects the hard work and talent of the Mercury’s exceptional editorial team.”

The Mercury was part of Local World until the company was bought by Trinity Mirror in a £220m deal in November. HTFP has asked Trinity Mirror for a comment.


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  • April 20, 2016 at 9:53 am

    Well done them. I have always thought some of these management types are shamelessly quick to pitch up to awards bashes honouring papers they have been equally speedy to run down the journalistic resource on. I glanced across the tables a few years ago at a big London event to see seven management/advertising honchos (including the statutory invitee from head office) and three journalists on a table of ten. The awards they there for – regional newspaper of the year and sport journalist of the year. Go figure.

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  • April 20, 2016 at 11:07 am

    It’s another sign of the takeover by the suits/salesmen/admen/marketers/”brand”.
    This sort of thing has always gone on. I used to design commercial supplements – you know, “new year, new you” that sort of thing, with a team of journalists who used to write the copy. We relentlessly changed the layouts every time the ad team failed to sell the ad they’d planned for or rejigged a page to accommodate an extra ad long past deadline. And often we’d have to abandon four completed pages because they couldn’t sell them. Yet each time these supplements won an award, and it was more than once for its design & production, it was the ad department who got the kudos & picked up the award at the ceremony. We never even got told about it until afterwards and I’m pretty sure that at these ceremonies the contribution of editorial never got a mention!

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  • April 20, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    May I nominate my brothers in arms for a different kind of award ?

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  • April 20, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Awards nights are just facile ego trips. I once won an award I did not even enter ( i hate them) for best front page story. It consisted of a brief caption over a huge picture blown up to fill a space.
    I know some vain people with big egos like them, but pulling out of them seems a great idea. If you are doing a good job, well that’s what you are paid for!! (however badly)

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  • April 20, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    One year, the paper I worked on picked up a company-wide award. The winning entry was a fairly modest news feature, which our editor entered very much at the last minute because he was under pressure from above to put something forward.
    The following year, we entered a really excellent front page lead plus a well researched in-depth inside analysis piece and were truly surprised when it wasn’t even commended.
    It came to light a few months later via one of the “outside” judges that we had been overlooked because “it wasn’t your turn”.
    That just underlines the true worth of these so-called awards.

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  • April 21, 2016 at 1:23 am

    All these awards, newspaper of the year etc etc are self congratulatory and worthless.
    Circulation dropping like a stone but this is the xyz paper of the year.
    These awards are judged by other journalists not readers. Participants in the loss of circulation judged by other participants in the loss of circulations. Worthless exercises.
    Rather like a theatre critic writing a glowing review of a performance but an audience failing to turn up.

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  • April 21, 2016 at 8:44 am

    Really proud of the Leicester NUJ chapel. Spot on.

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  • April 21, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Frontpager: Are you sure YOU won an award for a front page caption?
    Sounds more likely that the sub would win an award for best front page presentation.
    Awards recognise endeavour and excellence – and usually involve free and plentiful booze. I always enjoyed them, win or lose!
    On the NUJ stance, there’s a slap in the face value to a boycott by staff but it’s not up to the union branch to rescind the entry, is it?
    The company certainly won’t and it will have a team there to collect the gong, should it win.
    Plus, to be part of an award-nominated paper is a feather in the cap to those who worked hard to merit a nomination. The redundancies don’t change that.

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  • April 21, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    So you’re really proud of telling readers and customers that you think your own newspaper is rubbish? And how, exactly, does that help?

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