Award-winner Don Hale and Johnston head for final split


The uneasy relationship between Johnston Press and its most famous editor, Don Hale of the Matlock Mercury, was expected to end this week with him receiving a compromise compensation payment, thought to be a four-figure payoff.

While the rest of the industry has been heaping awards on him for his successful six-year battle to get an appeal for convicted murderer Stephen Downing, who spent 27 years in jail, Hale felt that he had received no support from his local management.

He will leave at the end of the month after editing the paper for 16 years. His dogged determination to find evidence that Downing did not kill typist Wendy Sewell in a Bakewell cemetery – Downing has always protested his innocence – was largely responsible for securing the prisoner an appeal and bail.

His fellow journalists have lauded his action but last year Hale claimed his local managers told him he was not "a team player" when he objected to a centralised subbing scheme, and that he was not part of the company’s future plans.

He waited until January to hear if the company was to offer him a leaving settlement and when it did not, began protracted negotiations through NUJ lawyers.

Hale this week had a meeting in Edinburgh with Danny Cammiade, Johnston deputy chief executive. They had a frank exchange of views and agreed to part amicably with the company wishing Hale well in exploring other career avenues. Lawyers were still sorting out the fine details as Press Gazette went to press.

By Jean Morgan

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