Pinpoints on NUJ cuts map represent tragedies for local communities

The NUJ has tried to get to grips with the dreadful cuts taking place across the regional press by producing this Google map.

And the union has appealed for journalists with more stories of cutbacks to get in touch.

What’s particularly sad is the cuts taking place on the weeklies – where a few jobs can make a major difference.

In the communities they serve – the weekly newspapers are normally the ONLY media covering council meetings, publicising the concerns of readers and holding those in power to account.

Every one of the pinpoints on the NUJ map is a local tragedy.

This correspondent served his apprenticeship in journalism at papers in Sussex and I’ve been saddened to hear that once proud local titles, with century-old histories, are being devastated by cutbacks.

The Mid Sussex Times in Haywards Heath does not have an in-house editor for the first time in its history. Papers in Hastings, Rye and Battle are to be subbed in Horsham – an hour and a half away.

Parent company Johnston Press made 30 per cent profit margins for so long – paying its reporters a pittance. This reporter started on the Rye and Battle Observer on less than £8,000 a year in 1997.

Journalists were given no slice of the enormous profits during the good times. So why are they and their communities the first to suffer when the going gets tough?

This recession will not last forever. Couldn’t the big companies just soak up some losses for a year or so – because if they can hold their nerves, the good times will return.

Journalists are being shown the door even on weekly titles where the sales are going up – where there is a clear thirst among local people for the news they provide.

I know the managers have a tough job to do too – and that cutbacks can safeguard the jobs of the majority.

But they largely seem to be symptomatic of a system of shareholder capitalism which has failed local papers because of its inherantly short-term approach.

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