Trinity Mirror’s Newcastle-based daily The Journal is facing a revolt after inviting various regular paid columnists to provide their services for nothing.
Most have withdrawn their services and Press Gazette understands some are now planning to set up an independent comment website for the north of England.
TV agony aunt Denise Robertston is understood to have quit her column two weeks ago. Poet and stand-up comedian Kate Fox is also understood to have left.
Former Daily Mirror editor David Banks has provided his Journal column free of charge for the last two years but decided to leave as well after hearing of the new policy.
Press Gazette understands that columnist Keith Hann has also decided to stop writing for the paper.
The website Voice of the North is expected to be up and running this week and will feature axed Journal columnists and other writers.
In a resignation letter to Journal executive editor Richard Kirkman, Banks said: “I hope that my decision two years ago to give a little support to Brian Aitken's editorship by voluntarily opting not to invoice for my work did not inspire Trinity Mirror to extend the 'scheme' to every other columnist.
“As my Guardianista daughter constantly reminds me, I am preventing others from earning a crust. My intended selflessness is selfish.
“I relish the thought that a similar fate is soon visited your CEO and his £1.8m annual salary.
“I thank you for your help and support and that of my former colleagues. I wish you all the best.”
The Journal had an average daily sale of 15,807 in the first half of this year, down 9.1 per cent year on year.