This week’s edition of the local free newspaper, the Croydon Guardian, could be the last seen in the borough for a while. It will certainly be the very last newspaper on which journalists with good contacts and an understanding of the local area and its issues will have worked specifically, since the majority of the paper’s already threadbare staff – of just two reporters and a news editor – are primed to quit.
Members of the National Union of Journalists working on Newsquest-owned local papers in south London, including the Sutton Guardian and the Croydon Guardian, plus papers in the series in Epsom, Kingston, Richmond, Wandsworth and Wimbledon, the News Shopper series covering Bexley, Bromley, Dartford, Gravesend and Greenwich, as well as the Richmond and Twickenham Times and Surrey Comet, start a two-week strike tomorrow over the latest management moves to axe jobs.
Last week, it was reported by the NUJ that six journalists from the group had resigned over the cuts. It seems that at least two of these are reporters working on the Croydon and Sutton titles, Dan O’Mahoney and Andrea Downey, who are leaving at the end of this week.
And there seems to be a possibility that Chris Baynes, the titles’ news editor, will leave, too.
It is the latest example of the erosion of local journalism which is going on around the country, although Croydon appears to be particularly ill-served by its newspapers, as the troubles at the Redhill-based, click bait-obsessed Sadvertiser have become obvious.
The situation at the Sadvertiser‘s free rivals is equally bleak.
“Newsquest is proposing to pool all the reporters at its south London titles together, with none of them covering specific patches,” someone close to the situation told Inside Croydon.
“They want 12 reporters covering 11 papers, the consequence being none of the reporters will have any relationship with any patch and will rarely get to leave the office or do anything resembling meaningful journalism, instead just churning out press releases for the company to sell ads around.
“Unsurprisingly there has been several resignations across the newsroom and almost everyone eligible has applied for voluntary redundancy.”
The NUJ issued a statement last week which said that six journalists had resigned from Newsquest South London since the company announced plans to axe 11 editorial roles across its 29-strong newsroom, with all except two staff being placed on notice of redundancy.
Union members began a “work to rule” last week and have also voted in favour of a 14-day strike.
A statement issued on behalf of the NUJ chapel reads: “The company’s proposal for the future of this newsroom and its news output is indicative of its continual lack of appreciation for its editorial staff, and its repeated failure to recognise the hard work and professional pride that goes into their work.
“It is a great shame that, despite our repeated efforts over the past few months, our managing director and those above him will not speak to our chapel to find a way to solve this dispute. We want nothing more than to resolve this in the best interests of both parties in a timely manner.”
A chapel spokesperson said: “Newsquest is determined to enforce a structure on this newsroom which management openly admit mean the quality of our papers will suffer. They acknowledge that ‘generic’ reporting will become the order of the day; holding local democracy to account will be non-existent.”
Which will probably suit the likes of Ruth Dombey, Tony Newman and Gavin Barwell, and the often bungling exec director level officials on six-figure salaries who really run our local councils.
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