A regional publisher has ruled out proposals to transfer the ownership of 24 weeklies which the National Union of Journalists claims are under threat of closure.
Johnston Press announced in July that a “significant” number of jobs would be lost at its 24 weekly newspapers in Scotland following a strategic review of titles there.
The company has since been engaged in what it calls “constructive” discussions with the NUJ about the future of the titles which it says have focused on saving, not closing them.
However NUJ Scotland has now drawn up plans to have the titles transferred to employee-run co-operatives as an alternative to their potential closure.
In a column for Scottish Socialist Voice, NUJ organiser Paul Holleran cited the Hawick Paper, set up by former JP journalists, and the West Highland Free Press as successful titles run under this model.
Paul, pictured above left, wrote: “The National Union of Journalists are embroiled in talks with Johnston Press, one of the largest owners of newspapers in the UK. They recently announced a threat of closure of around 24 titles in Scotland alone, with papers from Arbroath to Hawick at risk.
“The union is negotiating to keep the newspapers alive, but don’t accept that closure would be a final solution. The setting up of co-operatively owned structures to take over the running of these, many historic titles, has already begun.
“Early talks with other co-operative and independent newspapers began immediately to see what templates existed that could be relevant if needed. Shared information from small independent owners who see their titles as community assets has already been invaluable for the union in drafting a long-term plan.”
Added Paul: “The ownership of the press has long been an issue for workers and consumers and the alternative examples that currently exist are good models to follow.”
He said the recently established Hawick Paper set up by former JP journalists has been a success in its first year, while the West Highland Free Press has been successfully operating as a community asset for over three decades on Skye.
However, JP has ruled out the possibility of the affected papers’ ownership being transferred.
A spokesman said: “It’s no secret that the print newspaper market is a tough one. As we announced to staff in July we are taking a number of actions, including reducing editorial costs by introducing a new working structure, at some of our weekly titles in Scotland to ensure they stay viable.
“We are having constructive talks with the NUJ about how best to implement this new way of working which will involve a reduction in staffing numbers.
“This does not involve any transfer of ownership to a co-operative.”