PA slammed for “sly memo” suggesting “sacking” of Lobby reporters

The Press Association has been accused of “trying to undermine regional journalism” by encouraging editors to sack their own parliamentary staff and use a PA service instead.

The agency has sent an email to a number of regional editors making what it calls a “gentle sales pitch”, noting that they use their own parliamentary correspondent and suggesting that it would be cheaper for them instead to use PA’s Lobby Extra reporting team.

PA’s Lobby Extra has less than ten journalists. According to PA, its “greatest strength is being able to tailor our stories to clients' specific needs, by building a close relationship with key MPs and developing a detailed knowledge of the issues of most importance to them.”

There are currently 23 regional newspaper staff reporters based in Westminster covering Parliament.

NUJ President Chris Morley said today of the bid by PA to market Lobby Extra: “PA's sly suggestion to regional newspaper executives to sack their Westminster correspondents is outrageous.

"It is an attack on the diversity of journalism within our major cities outside London.

"Regional newspaper circulations are being hammered in no small measure as a result of massive editorial cost-cutting in recent years which has served to drive out local content from our newspapers.

"But of course PA, which does not recognise the NUJ and pays many of its staff a pittance, has got form for this sort of activity.

"When NUJ members were being balloted over possible industrial action earlier this year at the Yorkshire Post, PA took it upon itself, unsolicited, to contact management to offer a strike-breaking service.”

PA managing editor Gavin Bargate said: "For several years PA has run a very successful service, recently rebranded as Lobby Extra, which provides tailored news stories from Westminster to regional newspapers and other publications. Two more major newspapers recently opted to take the service.

"In response to requests from the industry it is normal practice for PA from time to time to alert our customers to the specialist services we offer which may be of benefit to them.

"There is clearly no obligation to take these services and editors will make the final decisions in the best interests of their newspapers."

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