As Johnston Press merges Yorkshire weeklies, local journalists warn company is treating papers as 'cash cows'

Johnston Press has been condemned following a merger between two Yorkshire town newspapers.

The Todmorden News and the Hebden Bridge Times are now one newspaper, meaning the publisher has closed at least 12 newspapers this month.

The Calderdale branch of the National Union of Journalists said in a statement: "Within the memory of members of our branch both the Todmorden and Hebden Bridge papers each had a team of four journalists pro-actively seeking stories, monitoring local authority decisions and reporting from the courts.

"These journalists had pride in the newspaper which they produced each week, and several went on to significant national careers. 

"Sadly the combined local paper now has material put together in an ad-hoc way by [Halifax] Courier staff based in Halifax.

"The local connection has been broken."

The branch accused Johnston Press of running the "Halifax Courier and the local papers as cash-cows, starving them of journalistic resources".

It said: "Johnston have been happy to take the profits but have felt no obligation to maintain high standards of reporting in our communities despite the valiant efforts of many local journalists (including many in our own union) who have struggled against the odds to maintain integrity and professional standards."

Johnston Press said in a statement: "For some time now the two titles have been produced by one team and, as a result, there will be very little change to the local news and information that's featured in the new, single edition. Obviously there will be a saving on production costs but no impact on jobs."

The publisher also said: "As we continue to focus on reaching readers across various platforms and mobile we are constantly reviewing our portfolio. The decision was made recently, at a local level, to merge the Todmorden Times and the Hebden Bridge Times into one single edition – with a new masthead and incorporating the two names."

The merger has also been condemned by the Todmorden Civic Society:

When last audited by ABC, the Todmorden News had a weekly paid-for circulation of 2,814 and the Hebden Bridge Times of 2,613.

Last week, Johnston Press announced the closed of 11 other newspapers across the UKincluding the 295-year-old Northampton Mercury.

This means, according to Press Gazette research, that at least 300 local and regional newspapers have been closed across the UK in the last ten years.

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