A group of MPs have challenged Johnston Press over its use of the term ‘sub-core’ to refer to newspapers it owns in their constituencies.
Four Nottinghamshire MPs have signed a letter to JP chief executive Ashley Highfield stating their concern at the papers’ classification, which was disclosed in January in an email to the company’s staff.
The list revealed JP had categorised its 200-plus newspaper titles into four groups – uber, primary, core and sub-core.
Nottinghamshire-based titles including the Alfreton Chad, Eastwood Advertiser, Hucknall Dispatch and Retford Trader & Guardian were among the 59 ‘sub-core’ titles.
Johnston Press said at the time that each grouping makes a “different, but equally important, contribution” to the company and that the categorisations would have “no bearing” on any decision to sell off titles in future.
But the four Labour MPs, including shadow cabinet member and former broadcast journalist Gloria De Piero, pictured above left, are now seeking clarification over the papers’ future.
Mrs De Piero, who represents Ashfield in Parliament, said: “We have asked for assurances from Mr Highfield that these newspapers will continue to have an important role to play in the company going forward, because we believe that they are key assets to our local communities.
“We urge him to ensure that staffing levels at the newspapers are maintained to a level that does not cause unacceptable stress to the employees who work there and which enables the newspapers to continue their good work informing local people, championing local causes and scrutinising local democracy.”
The letter has also been signed by John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw, Alan Meale, MP for Mansfield, and Graham Allen MP for Nottingham North.
Mrs De Piero, the Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Registration, has also written to John Whittingdale, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to outline her concerns about the future of local newspapers.
The MPs’ actions have been welcome by Diana Peasey, who chairs the Nottingham branch of the National Union of Journalists.
She said her members were “extremely concerned” about the future of papers in Nottinghamshire following a “continuous programme of re-structuring and downsizing with the loss of very able, talented and experienced journalists.”
Diana added: “There is only so much a journalist can do without falling prey to stress and ill-health. Sadly, and perhaps inevitably, some are walking away from the industry.
“Hopefully, these letters to Ashley Highfield, JP’s chief executive and to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will hammer home a strong message about our fears for the future of the industry.”
A Johnston Press spokeswoman said: “We will, of course, be responding to this letter and addressing the concerns that have been shared.
“It’s encouraging to see MPs are interested in the future of local press and we always welcome opportunities to explore ways local MPs and councils can support our industry.”