War in Wakefield as journalists take on publishing giant Johnston Press

A rebel former Johnston Press managing director is taking on the regional press giant by launching two titles in one of its heartland areas.

The Wakefield and Cas and Pont Post, will hit the streets next Thursday with a combined circulation of 32,000.

The rival outfit, Johnson Publishing, claims it is the first new paid-for newspaper group in West Yorkshire for 50 years.

An adviser for the scheme has revealed that the whole project was prompted by an article in Press Gazette.

The papers will go head-to-head with the Wakefield Express, which has a circulation of 32,389, and the Wakefield edition of the Yorkshire Evening Post – both of which are owned by Johnston Press.

The new Post titles will adopt a part-free strategy and will cost 40p where sold.

The man behind the project is Terry Johnson, a former managing director and advertising executive at Johnston Press titles including the Wakefield Express. He was the managing director of the company's South Yorkshire Newspaper division in Doncaster during its 10-day strike last summer.

He said: "We want to promote the area as much as possible. There is a lot of development going on in the area and we have strong links with the council and the editorial team has been to meet community leaders."

Johnson said the project has received "considerable" financial backing from local estate agents. He also said the company would redistribute some of its profits back into the local community.

The papers will be edited by former Press Association journalist and Cambridge Evening News deputy editor Ben Pindar.

Pindar will start with a staff of around 15, including five editorial, but he plans to hire more in the coming weeks.

He said: "Obviously Johnston Press is aware we are coming, and fast. Our advertising team has had a fantastic response. There was only one option [for advertisers] before us.

"We hope our papers will become an integral part of life in Wakefield, Pontefract, Castleford and the surrounding towns and villages, and are confident we can inject a new lease of life into the sense of community."

Danny Lockwood, who set up the independent weekly Dewsbury Press in 2002, in competition with Johnston's Dewsbury Reporter, said he had been advising Johnson over the past few weeks and that the whole idea came from an article in Press Gazette.

He said: "Press Gazette did an interview with me last summer where I said we would like to speak to people who had ideas to do something similar [to the Press]. It was because of that that we got together."

He repeated the offer of help to anyone setting up an independent newspaper and said any would-be proprietors should get in touch.

The editor of the Wakefield Express was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

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