Newsquest desk-jockeys revolt

NEWSQUEST bosses in Sutton, south London, are to be admired for their candour, if nothing else. Speaking to staff who produce their 11 newspapers and eight websites they laid bare their newsroom plan.

Strikers

Strikers in Sutton

Until recently, 23 reporters worked from the site producing the Croydon, Epsom, Sutton, Wandsworth and Wimbledon Guardians, the Richmond & Twickenham Times, the Surrey Comet and the News Shopper in Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich and Lewisham.

[NUJ President Tim Dawson; © Lucy Adams]

The editorial cost of each page has averaged £109. The plan is cut this to £50 per page. Reporters will no longer have specific geographic beats. In their words of one manager journalists will be: "at their desks all day, processing press releases". No longer will they attend court hearings, local government meetings or speak with members of the public. Newsquest's hope is to produce the same number of titles with just 12 journalistic staff.

Congratulations then to the NUJ chapel which voted for a week's strike intended to force Newsquest to reconsider. As of this morning, chapel members are picketing the office. Support, be it emails, tweets or contributions to their strike fund are enormously welcome.

With 165 newspapers around the UK, Newsquest is the country's second biggest provincial publisher. Quite possibly this cheese-paring editorial scheme is one that the company is road testing in south London with a view to roll-out other centres? Perhaps the US-owned company calculated that with a young, inexperienced workforce (average age 27) they would meet little resistance?

Youthful our members might be, but they have the determination of seasoned campaigners. One told me: "we work here because we are committed to local news and really care about the communities we serve. Newsquest bosses seem indifferent to editorial quality or the future of our titles. We think different and that is why we are making a stand".

They deserve all our support.