Wakefield Express journalists fight office closure

Journalists at the Wakefield Express have launched a campaign to save their office after Johnston Press announced plans to sell their 150-year-old home.

Staff fear, if the sale of Express House on Wakefield’s Southgate goes ahead, they will be forced to work from an out-of-town office.

The National Union of Journalists chapel has announced a public meeting to be held later this month, chaired by former Wakefield MP David Hinchcliffe.

The 1952 documentary Wakefield Express, made to celebrate the paper’s centenary, will be shown.

Chris Morley, NUJ northern of England organiser, said: “The Wakefield Express has been rooted in the very fabric of the city for more than 150 years and has proudly stood in Southgate as an accessible champion of its people during all that time.

“If the bosses of Johnson Press have their way, it will be shunted off to the cheapest out-of-town site they can find.

“Its ability to stand up for the city will surely diminish as it becomes marginalised by its own owners.

“They have seen an opportunity to grab some cash by disposing of a prime city centre site – but this will be a drop in the ocean of the £470 million the company owes because of reckless management mistakes.

“The management’s strategy of a dash for growth fuelled by debt has turned out to be as bust as the banks that lent them the money.

“But the company still generates huge amounts of cash and has just announced an operating profit of £125 million with profit margins of 25 per cent – that’s 25p for each £1 the company brings in when the likes of Tesco get by on less than 10 per cent.

“By continuing to hack away at the number of journalists they have to produce newspapers such as the Wakefield Express, Johnston Press is undermining its own future by attacking the very core of its business.

‘By moving newspapers out of town, they are taking the heart out of the city – and leaving a key element of local democracy to shout from the sidelines.”

The public meeting will be held at Wakefield Labour Club on Thursday, 23 April at 7.30pm.

Other papers to recently move out of the towns they serve include the Penarth Times, which is moving to Barry; MEN Media’s weekly titles, including the Salford Advertiser and Stockport Express, which are moving to Manchester; and the Exmouth Journal and the Sidmouth Herald, which are moving to Exeter.

Last year, Johnston Press made a £128.4m profit last year – down from £178.1m in 2007 – on revenue down 12.4 per cent to £531.9m. The operating profit margin was 24.1 per cent.

The Wakefield Express has a paid-for circulation of 30,718 – making it one of the UK’s bigger local weeklies.

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