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Weekly bids farewell to long-serving writer amid ‘commercial challenges’

Preston WittsA former Westminster journalist who has freelanced for a weekly title for 15 years has been let go by the newspaper due to “commercial challenges.”

The Stratford Herald has said farewell to Preston Witts, a former Central Press and BBC lobby correspondent, after an embargo was placed on the use of all freelance services at the newspaper.

Preston, left, had worked for the Herald for almost 15 years and turned in his last copy before Christmas.

He was previously the Birmingham Post and Mail’s Stratford-upon-Avon correspondent in the late 1960s, before he moved into broadcasting.

His work with the Herald focused mainly on political and general news reporting.

Herald editor Amanda Chalmers said: “The Stratford Herald is not immune to the commercial challenges faced by the entire industry and, as such, we have carried out a financial review of our costs base.

“In order to make necessary budget savings, an embargo has been placed on the use of all freelance services, including Preston Witts.

“It was with regret that we had to say farewell to Preston but this should not in any way detract from the valuable contribution he’s made to the Herald.”

8 comments

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  • January 17, 2017 at 8:40 am
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    “…an embargo was placed on the use of all freelance services at the newspaper”
    This is a very short sighted decision and is one being taken by other regional press news groups yet with the loss of so many top quality journalists to the many local independent publishers thriving across the uk the content will only fall further.
    A short sighted and quick cost saving measure with damaging longer term consequences for those who once valued the quality of their content over saving a few pounds,when quick and cheap is the order of the day this is the kind of drastci measure being taken.
    Welcome to the face of regional publishing in 2017

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  • January 17, 2017 at 10:02 am
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    I agree, Employee X. There is no future for local newspapers if they jettison staff journalists of the quality, dedication and experience of Preston Witts for the sake of adding a few quid to the bottom line. Mr. Witts was well-known for spoiling the Thursday breakfasts of the rich and powerful of Stratford; they will rejoice at his departure.

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  • January 17, 2017 at 11:16 am
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    Short-sighted indeed. I know the Herald set-up and for such a small title they have quite a lot of staffers in the newsroom. Yet, some of these are producing very questionable content which amounts to little more than churning out a few press releases. As a regular Herald reader, it was always notable that Witts’ copy was the only solid contribution to the paper, week on week, holding the local authorities to account. Without him the paper loses the only edge it had. Poor, poor judgement.

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  • January 17, 2017 at 11:22 am
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    Spot on, finger on the pulse again @employee x
    Only those regional press publishers who value a few more pounds dropping to the bottom left be wil jettison freelance contributors and columnists. It shows again how little value ‘content chiefs’ out on quality journalism happy to run with reader supplied pieces, social media pleadings and scrapings and rewrites of press releases.

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  • January 17, 2017 at 11:31 am
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    “The Stratford Herald is not immune to the commercial challenges ……as such, we have carried out a financial review of our costs base”

    Goodness me I wonder just how bad things must be there if removing a few freelancers ( presumably paid very little) from the cost base makes a difference far outweighing the drop in quality and perceived reduction in reader value to the overall make up of the paper,they’ll be counting paperclips next.
    Doesn’t Instill much confidence to any potential reader or advertiser if they put so little value on quality as to cast aside some of their best writers

    2017 is shaping by up to be going the cheap and ,not so,cheerful route of cost savings over end user satisfaction

    Rip quality content

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  • January 17, 2017 at 2:05 pm
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    It’s stories like this that shine a light on the nonsense spouted about companies pursuing new ways of doing things to keep up with changing the changing habits of readers, virtually all of the decisions and changes made these days are purely cost cutting with no regard whatsoever to readers or the long term viability of the ‘product’.

    If John Lennon waltzed in one day and said he’d been alive all along and offered to write a music column for the Liverpool Echo for 20 quid a month they’d still say no.

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  • January 17, 2017 at 4:16 pm
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    Jeff jones
    The farcical thing is this will save the price of a couple of lunches on expenses for the board or its many middle managers whilst some of the overpaid and highly bonussed commercial managers carry on racking up the costs and overheads,yet if they were truly serious about cost savings these primarily under reproductive management levels could be cut out with little or no negative impact on the business, it’s readers or it’s profits

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  • January 18, 2017 at 12:14 pm
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    Preston’s one of the best rural town journalists in the UK, and it’s a shame he’s been let go in this way. Personally, I reckon his departure has more to do with the fact that he upsets local ‘worthies’ with his sharp but honest reports, rather than simple budget cuts.

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