Save the Observer: Pressure mounts with public meeting

With the future of The Observer currently in question – Press Gazette has teamed up with the National Union of Journalists and the paper’s staff to hold a Stand up for the Observer public meeting in London later this month.

Hundreds of journalists from the joint Observer/Guardian chapels and non-union staff are expected to attend as well as colleagues from other papers, concerned readers and high-profile figures from the worlds of culture and politics.

The event is being held at the Friends Meeting House in Easton Road, Kings Cross, from 7pm on 21 September.

NUJ national newspapers organiser Barry Fitzpatrick said: “We are hoping we can create enough pressure top make people realise that The Observer is a much loved-product which has a future. The paper’s NUJ chapel are hoping to do that through a combination of lobbying and holding public meetings. And they are pledged to fight any compulsory redundancies if it comes to that.”

A month ago, a report in the Sunday Times revealed that closing the Observer was one of a number of options being considered by Guardian Media Group to stem mounting losses.

Press Gazette has been told that no date as yet been set for the autumn meeting of the Scott Trust – which owns Guardian Media Group – when the decision over the future of The Observer will be made. But it is expected that it will be held some time next month.

An Observer journalist, who asked not to be named, said they hoped the meeting “will bring to pressure to bear on people at management level and make them think again”.

They said: “We’ve been told that everything is under consideration as they look to cut costs. It feels like the Observer is being looked at as if it is just a section of the Guardian.

‘We are not talking about just, say, cutting a newspaper’s business section. We are talking about a decision that has much greater impact and that effects the diversity and plurality of the press and has wide-ranging implications for journalism as a whole.”

Press Gazette asked Guardian News and Media and Guardian Media Group if they would like to send a representative to this month’s meeting but they declined. A spokeswoman said: “We can’t participate as we can’t pre-empt the outcome of the internal review, at this stage any discussion is in fact speculation.”

Press Gazette has also asked the 11 members of the Scott Trust board if they would like to attend the event to hear the concerns of journalists, contributors and readers.

They are:

  • Dame Liz Forgan DBE. Formerly a Guardian journalist, she has chaired the trust since 2003 and as was previously director of programmes at Channel 4.
  • Larry Elliott. Joined the Guardian as an industrial reporter from the Press Association in 1988 becoming economics correspondent in 1989 and economics editor in 1995.
  • Andrew Graham. Master of Balliol College, Oxford, chair of the advisory board of the Oxford Internet Institute and an elected member of the Council of Oxford University.
  • Will Hutton. Former editor-in-chief of the Observer, he is a columnist for both The Guardian and The Observer newspapers.
  • Maleiha Malik. Reader in Law at the School of Law, King’s College London.
  • Carolyn McCall OBE. Guardian Media Group chief executive.
  • Geraldine Proudler. A solicitor specialising in media law.
  • Alan Rusbridger. Joined the Guardian as a reporter in 1979, became deputy editor in 1993, became editor in 1995.
  • Anthony Salz. A former corporate lawyer who is an executive vice chairman of Rothschild.
  • Jonathan Scott. Currently a non-executive director of Ambac Assurance UK. He was previously a director of KPMG Corporate Finance and SBC Warburg.
  • Phil Boardman, secretary. GMG company secretary since 2001.

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