Former Sunderland Echo editor Rob Lawson has landed a new job with a company bidding for the local TV licence in the North East just over a month after leaving the Johnston Press daily.
Lawson left amid ongoing cutbacks at the Johnston Press title but has insisted his departure was not linked with the closure of the company’s printing press in Sunderland.
The 46-year-old has now joined up with another former Newcastle Chronicle editor Paul Robertson as associate director at Channel 8 North East, which proposes to call its channel NEON TV.
Channel 8 North East was set up by Nick Oldham, the managing director of Gateshead-based production company Media 19, Robertson and Andrew Lambert, the former editor of BBC Look North.
The company will find out if its bid was successful before Christmas. It faces competition from four other organisations.
“Like the rest of the team I believe the existing media in the region is providing a diminishing service to local people and this needs to be redressed,” said Lawson.
Oldham said: “Unlike the other three we are not bidding for a network of licences. Our production base will be in the North East, we will be managed in the North East and our sole focus will be providing programmes which are relevant for viewers in the North East.
“We are delighted that Rob is joining us. Not only is he a highly able and experienced journalist, he also shares our complete commitment to the region.”
Lawson said: “Although an important chapter of my career has finished, my commitment to journalism and my desire to serve communities in Sunderland and the North East remains as strong as ever.
“Unfortunately the existing local media, for a number of reasons, is unable to provide the service it once did and that’s why Channel 8 North East’s plans are so exciting.”
In a release the company said Lawson’s departure was “wrongly reported as a reaction to the closure of the local printing plant”, but Lawson said he was “stunned by the number of good wishes I received”.
“I have already been involved in a number of interesting projects and view Channel 8 North East as potentially one of the most exciting and important developments in the local media in decades,” he said.