An editor said to be in the process of leaving Newsquest launched an attack on the publisher as colleagues began a week-long strike this morning.
The anonymous editor, said by the National Union of Journalists to be working at Newsquest South London, hit out at the company’s “endless obstacle course” which has prompted union members there to launch industrial action.
Staff in South London, where up to 11 jobs are set to go in a restructure, had called off plans to strike last week, but talks with management broke down with the union claiming there had been “no meaningful consultation about the cuts proposed and no change in management’s approach.”
The stoppage began at 9am today and will continue until Wednesday 19 October.
In a news release issued yesterday ahead of the action, the union quoted an anonymous editor in what amounted to a wide-ranging attack on the publisher.
They said: “Being a journalist at Newsquest has felt like tackling an endless obstacle course designed by the company and its management. Highly respected editors with decades of experience have been made redundant and gone unreplaced, the number of reporters has been slashed annually, professional photographic coverage has been all-but-abolished, and sub-editors have been laid off and replaced with a barely functional computer programme.
“The entire newsroom is at breaking point; stressed, overworked, underpaid and completely demoralised. Newsquest’s response to this is to cut staffing levels further.
“I can no longer work for a so-called news organisation that sees its journalism as nothing more than, in the words of one senior manager, ‘information to sell adverts’. I am fortunate that I am able to leave, but I fear for my hard-working colleagues and friends who have no choice but to remain behind.”
The NUJ has declined to name the editor concerned, but claims they are currently in the process of leaving one of the newspapers affected by the strike.
The news release also quotes two unnamed reporters at the South London titles who it says are also in the process of leaving.
One said: “As a trainee at Newsquest I was fully prepared for a hard slog, being flexible with my hours to break news stories and having doors slammed in my face. What I wasn’t expecting was that the buzzing newsroom I joined would become full of empty chairs and dejected, burnt out staff. ”
Another commented: “Newsquest is toxic, there was no way I could stay any longer.”
Titles affected by the action include the Guardian series in Croydon, Epsom, Kingston, Richmond, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbledon, the News Shopper series covering Bexley, Bromley, Dartford, Gravesend, and Greenwich, the Richmond & Twickenham Times and Surrey Comet.
A Newsquest spokesman said: “The NUJ and its members have been made fully aware of the trading position of the South London business and the need to revisit its cost base to ensure a sustainable future.
“During talks the NUJ and its members were invited to discuss, review and propose a workable structure within a reduced cost base – which they have failed to do. Sadly, as a result, talks broke down.
“Clearly it is regrettable that this restructuring puts a number of roles at risk of redundancy, but we are doing this to ensure that the South London business – which is made up of free newspaper titles – has a credible future.”