Striking free paper’s staff reach breaking point over cuts

Nick Davies has had a fair amount of airtime in the last 24 hours.

croydon_guardian_splashThe investigative journalist was the first to break the phone hacking scandal which ultimately led to the Old Bailey trial involving David Cameron’s former communications director, Andy Coulson (guilty) and the News International executive in charge when all this was going on at The Sun and News of the World, Rebekah Brooks (not guilty).

But Davies’s work is also notable for his 2008 book, Flat Earth News, and the manner in which he highlighted “churnalism”, the process whereby journalists too often re-hash press releases and agency reports. Davies was less judgemental of the journalists placed in this position than he was of the media companies who have over decades withdrawn and reduced resources to allow “real” journalism to take place on their newspapers. Private Eye’s bogus byline “By Phil Space” has become all too real.

An example of this crass disinvestment in original, “real” journalism arrived in the inbox at Inside Croydon Towers overnight, in an email from the editor of the Croydon Guardian.

The staff journalists – both of ’em – at the Croydon Guardian are on strike. They’ve had enough. Their management continues to charge their advertisers the same rates for space in their newspaper, while expecting ever fewer staff to fill the editorial space in between the ads.

At the start of this year, the local free paper had four staff. Now they are down to two, and one of those is still a trainee (starting salary? Less than £15,000 per year). It is instructive that over the past couple of years, the reporters on the free paper who have opted to leave have chosen new careers – working for a charity, going into teaching – rather than seeking another journalism job.

This is what Robert Fisk wrote in his email:

Croydon Guardian’s journalists are on strike in protest at what is
happening to the paper.

We believe passionately in serving Croydon with high-quality
journalism, holding politicians to account, supporting local events and organisations, providing you with vital information and an entertaining read.

But sadly at the moment this is not possible.

Since January, when I started at the paper, the number of staff has gone down from four to two. Our trainee reporter has had to become a trainee reporter, senior reporter, chief reporter and arts and entertainment editor rolled into one. As well as being the chief reporter I am now also the news editor and the editor.

Getting out to cover stories is a rarity, as is just going outside.
This makes it difficult to deliver a high-quality news product to the thousands of people across Croydon who deserve nothing less than this.

We try as best as we can to deliver a great paper every week – as well as coming up with great news for the website – and this is done because we are dedicated to the cause. The phrase working 9 to 5 now has a new meaning for me as I get up at 5.30am and consider myself lucky if I have got home in time to have dinner at 9pm.

These excessive hours are caused by job cuts and it is not just the Croydon Guardian which has suffered with staff cutbacks. Newsquest (the company which owns Croydon Guardian) has also slashed the number of staff on its Sutton, Wimbledon, Kingston, Wandsworth, Richmond, Twickenham and Surrey titles.

The National Union of Journalists is on strike because we feel the management needs to listen to us about ways to create a better future for the Croydon Guardian and the community it serves.

We will be starting our day of action with a picket line outside our office in Quadrant House, Sutton, before visiting various towns in Croydon [“various towns in Croydon”? He clearly needs to get out more]. If you are in Croydon on Wednesday (June 25) then it would be great if you came to show your support for the Croydon Guardian -find out where we are by ringing me on 07437 446603.

Alternatively, send us a message of support by emailing
Robert.fisk@gmail.com or campaigns@nuj.org.uk


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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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