Shock at Argus as editor quits

Happier days: Bradshaw picks up his RPA award in 2003

Simon Bradshaw left his staff in shock last Friday when he e-mailed them at the end of his working day to tell them it was his last as editor of The Argus, Brighton.

Bradshaw, also editor-in-chief of Newsquest (Sussex), a position from which he has also resigned, apologised for springing such a surprise on his journalists, but thanked them and wished them all luck for the future.

“You deserve it,” he said, adding that he would be missing them and asking them to keep in touch.

There had been no inkling during the day that he was about to depart. Bradshaw would not comment when contacted by Press Gazette .

He had been at the paper for six years and drove the relaunch last January that took the paper in a different direction. There had been a year of research within the group beforehand.

He told Press Gazette at the time that he felt the group had come up with “a new approach for a local newspaper… offering a compelling read with humour, brilliant reporting and news analysis not available anywhere else”.

Each day the Argus carried a special section or supplement, a four page what’s on section and a new football Premiership page.

Sales failed to pick up, however. It is just over a month since regional newspaper sales tables revealed that The Argus lost seven per cent of its Monday-Friday circulation year-onyear in the first half of 2004 and 6.2 per cent on Saturdays. It was selling 41,383 (Mon-Fri) at that point.

At the time of its relaunch, The Argus axed three of its five editions – its late special and the Eastbourne and Worthing editions -claiming that its readers were primarily Brighton based.

On Monday, Martyn Willis, managing director of Newsquest (Sussex), confirmed that Bradshaw had resigned and thanked him for his hard work and dedication.

Deputy Pat Lewis has become acting editor.

Bradshaw,44, won awards while he was at the helm, notably Evening Newspaper of the Year in the Press Gazette Regional Press Awards 2003.

Previously he had been executive editor of the Daily Record in Glasgow and deputy editor of the Evening Chronicle, Newcastle.

There was speculation at the Society of Editors conference this week that Bradshaw’s departure was due to poor sales after the relaunch, which saw the dropping of much community news.

Steve Lowe, editorial director of LSN Media, said Bradshaw had discussed his radical relaunch plans and told him: “If it doesn’t work, I’ll probably be out of a job this time next year”

JOURNALISTS BLAME PROMOTION FAILINGS FOR FALLING SALES

By Dominic Ponsford

Members of the Argus NUJ chapel said they were sorry to lose an editor who “for six years put his heart and soul into the paper”.

They said: “He had boundless enthusiasm for the job and worked massively long hours.

“During his time in Brighton, Simon nurtured young talent and built a strong editorial team.

“Members of this chapel would like to go on record to say how sorry we are to lose him. He was a good editor and great fun to work with. We will carry on the good work he started and wish him well, wherever his career takes him next.”

However, Argus Mother of Chapel  Karen Hoy said: “The statement was issued on behalf of an individual member of the Argus NUJ chapel and does not neccessarily represent the views of the chapel who were not given the opportunity to vote on whether to endorse the statement.”

One newsroom insider said journalists felt the drop in circulation was more due to sales and promotion failings than editorial content.

Following the Argus relaunch, staff claim they were told to write stories aimed at a target reader described as a 35-year-old woman with two children,married to a businessman who commuted to London.

According to the insider there is is little evidence that new target readers had been attracted, and there are fears ABC sales may drop below 40,000. In the 70s and early 80s, the Argus sold over 100,000 copies.

There have been reports that hundreds of subscription cancellations came in from readers following the relaunch, some complained at the lack of council and court stories in the revamped paper.

Bradshaw is understood to have told friends that he is currently “unemployed” and does not have another job to go to.

By Jean Morgan

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