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Publishing boss is now flagship title’s ‘de facto editor’, union claims

David MontgomeryNational World executive chairman David Montgomery has appointed himself as the “de facto editor” of one of the group’s titles, union chiefs have claimed.

National Union of Journalists members at the group have made the claim after passing a vote of no confidence in Mr Montgomery’s leadership of the company.

The union claimed Mr Montgomery has now taken a more “hands-on role in the day-to-day management” of its flagship national news website NationalWorld, which is staffed by regionally-based journalists.

The move comes amid cuts across the publisher affecting 54 journalists, including five deputy editors and three audience editors responsible for running the newsdesks of eight regional dailies.

Last month, NationalWorld editor Nick Mitchell moved to a new group-wide head of audience role and political editor Tom Hourigan quit just weeks into the job, citing “restructuring and a change in editorial direction” for his decision, with Nancy Fielder officially taking oversight over the title in her role as the publisher’s cities editor-in-chief.

But the union has now accused Mr Montgomery, pictured, of becoming the site’s “de facto editor” while concurrently withdrawing a new deputy editor post created as part of the restructure, for which journalists affected by the cuts had already been interviewed.

According to the latest figures by the NUJ, 54 journalists are at risk of redundancy with around 34 roles set to be  axed and 12 new ones created in the restructure.

This will mean approximately 22 journalists will be left without jobs as a result of the changes.

An NUJ National World Group Chapel spokesperson said: “This vote of no confidence is not about a lack of faith in local editors or an unwillingness to embrace digital journalism. It is very much about the damaging culture that has evolved under David Montgomery’s leadership and the direct threat that he now poses to the future success of this business.

“Many feel senior managers are no longer able to give honest opinions or question decisions being taken and, as a result, significant resources are being directed towards one man’s empire building at the expense of everything else.

“The board must see that allowing a major shareholder to not only serve as executive chairman and the effective lead for all editorial strategy, but to also appoint himself as the de facto editor of the company’s flagship national website is a recipe for disaster.

“Where is the very necessary scrutiny coming from when one man holds so much sway? If the board will not exercise that crucial responsibility, then the other shareholders must intervene as a matter of urgency.”

Among those at risk in the cuts are five deputy editors and three audience editors who are responsible for running the newsdesks of National World’s eight city daily titles – the Blackpool Gazette, Edinburgh Evening News, Lancashire Post, Portsmouth News, Sheffield Star, Shields Gazette, Sunderland Echo and Yorkshire Evening Post.

Those at risk of redundancy in the restructure are able to apply for a number of new positions being created as part of the changes, including early editor, late editor and SEO editor at NationalWorld – although according to the NUJ the previously advertised deputy editor role has been withdrawn.

According to the union, there is no minimum payment being proposed for National World journalists made redundant with less than two years’ service.

Talks between the company and the union are also set to be held over pay by the conciliation service ACAS after 13 out of 14 chapels rejected a salary increase of 4.5pc.

HTFP has approached National World for a response to the NUJ’s comments.