Court freelance axed after 54 years

A freelance who has covered Norwich Crown Court for 54 years says a decision by newspaper publisher Archant not to use her copy any more is "the major final nail in her coffin".

Maureen Huggins, 72 - affectionately known as 'Mo' to the journalistic fraternity in Norfolk - has received a letter from Archant Norfolk senior content editor Peter Hannam informing her that her services are no longer required.

The letter tells 'Mo' - who still uses a typewriter to tap out her copy and a fax machine to send it - that the decision has been made partly due to the 'current economic climate.'

Earlier this year Archant Norfolk sought 54 redundancies from its editorial staff but following protests the number was reduced to around 28, according to the NUJ.

Despite the recent staff cuts, Hannam tells 'Mo' in his letter: "You will know there has been a major editorial review at Archant Norfolk and as a result the EDP and Evening News reporters have been integrated into a new team working for all titles, daily and weekly, and associated websites.

"The size of the new team means we are now able to cover the Norwich courts and inquests from within our own pool of reporters."

The letter also says:"'For many years you have supplied copy for the newspapers here, mainly from court and inquests, and we have been very thankful for your help. But, as the saying goes, all good things come to an end.

"'I am writing to you formally to say that from the end of this month we will no longer be taking courts and inquests copy from you.

"On a personal level I would like to say a big 'thank you' to you for what you have done over the years. But with our new team and in the current economic climate we will in future sort out these stories from within our own resources."

Mo, who single-handedly runs the Norfolk Courts Press Agency, said today that she was determined to carry on working until next September when she will complete 55 years in journalism.

She said in In recent years she has earned up to £1,000 a month solely from Archant by supplying copy to their papers in East Anglia. But she said that figure had dwindled to £200 in July.

"Receiving the letter is the major final nail in the coffin really," said Mo, who also files copy to BBC local TV and radio, and papers in East Anglia owned by newspaper groups other than Archant.

"I stopped filing copy to the national papers many years ago as there was too much competition but now hardly anyone comes to Norwich Crown Court any more."

Mo said the Press Assocation had also stopped using her, she believes because of her policy of not using a computer to file.

But she added: "I won't touch computers. They are the death knell of journalism. They kill off jobs. I used one once many years ago and always had trouble with them.

"The internet has killed off many newspapers and they are now planning to charge for reading their stuff on the net. It's a bit late for that."

Mo also claimed that the type of article used in Archant papers had changed. They seemed more keen on interviewing people who had written books rather than carrying court copy.

She added: "Never mind, I'm going to write a book about 55 years in journalism and then all the local papers will probably come and interview me."

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