Centuries of London subbing experience set to be lost as jobs are moved to Weymouth, NUJ warns

More than 300 years worth of experience has been lost from Newsquest’s South London titles in the past two years, the National Union of Journalists has claimed.

This comes after the London Assembly unanimously agreed to write to Boris Johnson about production journalism jobs at Newsquest being moved out of London.

The assembly has called on the Mayor of London to “write to the CEO of Newsquest Group expressing further concern over the relocation of local media jobs outside London”. 

Members also voted for a discussion on how local newspapers contribute ”to London’s economy and their role in connecting local communities and businesses”.

The south London NUJ chapel said some of those losing their jobs as a result of the moves have 40 years of industry experience.

It said recent job losses at titles including the News Shopper series, the Surrey Comet and the Richmond and Twickenham Times were down to redundancy or reporters leaving in disgust because of savage cuts to newsrooms.

A spokesman for the south London NU chapel said: “The feeling you have after you are told by well-paid Newsquest executives that they plan to lay off your colleagues and friends is hard to describe.

“But the emotional toll is plain to see when leaving speeches are made and they disappear out of the door for the last time.

“The draining of hard-won journalistic experience not only hurts those left behind, but also does a disservice to trainee reporters joining the newsroom, who now have far fewer wise heads to rely on for guidance.”

In passing the motion for a letter to be sent to Johnson, the assembly said moving production jobs could ”threaten the quality and long-term survival" of London newspapers.

The motion’s proposer, Caroline Pidgeon AM, said: “Local newspapers are vital to maintaining local democracy and vibrant communities. At their best, local newspapers keep councils on their toes and ensure issues concerning residents are given a proper voice.

"Newsquest need to review their policies of centralising their news reporting and moving their reporters even further away from the areas and communities they are reporting on.”

Val Shawcross AM, who seconded the motion said: “Local newspapers have always had a key role to play in local democracy in informing local people about issues that matter to them, but a large part of that success has come from being embedded in the communities they serve.

Boris Johnson has acknowledged the importance of local press, but warm words simply aren’t enough. With local jobs and local scrutiny at stake, it’s time the Mayor challenged Newsquest’s decision to move posts out of London because there’s a good chance it could mark the beginning of a tragic end for local newspapers.”

According to the NUJ, sub-editors working on south London Newsquest titles will be made redundant early next year if they do not agree to move 128 miles to Weymouth.

It will be the fourth round of redundancies in the south London division since summer 2014.

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: "Newsquest's contempt for its staff and its complete disregard for investing in strong, local newspapers for its readers is not going unnoticed. 

“Local politicians and MPs gave their support during the strike and the London Assembly has stepped in again to show its disquiet about the conduct of the Newsquest management.

“London, by head of population, is one of the least well served by newspapers and Newsquest seems hell-bent on making the situation worse."

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