Fowler: apologised for memo
Journalists on Trinity Mirror’s Cardiff-based newspapers were furious after a memo from the Western Mail newsdesk, excoriating the morning paper’s reporters for lax editorial standards, also accused weekly and evening titles of "filling space with lazy stories".
The Western Mail’s reporters were angry that the work of one or two of its journalists had been used as an excuse to berate them all publicly.
South Wales Echo and Celtic Newspapers staff, the sister evening and weeklies to the Western Mail, were outraged.
By the end of the day, 40 Echo staff had signed a letter to new managing director Keith Dye expressing their disapproval and they and other journalists at the centre received apologies from Western Mail editor Neil Fowler, and from the man who wrote the memo, Lee Wenham, assistant editor (news).
Wenham complained that he had been forced to pull three page leads late at night "because the standard of reporting was so poor".
"If I’d had more resources available at 7pm I would have pulled another two," he wrote. "This highlights a disappointing trend among our reporters which seems to be one of, ‘let’s get the job done and get home as quickly as possible’."
Wenham said head office reporters "stroll in any time between 9am and 9.30am, pick up a paper or two, have a chat and then go upstairs for a coffee. Very few get down to any work before 10am."
He reminded Western Mail staff: "We are in the information and entertainment business – we need to inform and entertain our readers, otherwise they will go elsewhere. You only need to look at our sales figures to see that this is already happening."
The memo demanded that the journalists write with authority, intelligence and confidence, adding: "We don’t need some pressure group or loudmouth to criticise something to make it a story.
"You do not work for a weekly or local evening paper where it is acceptable to merely fill space with lazy stories. If you do not think you can achieve these standards please inform me and I’ll work with editors in the group to find you suitable employment on a less-demanding title.
"I want people who are prepared to go that extra yard, not clock-watchers who base their day around their desired departure time. We are a morning paper – an 18-hour operation.
"If you want a 9-5 job go work somewhere else, because we don’t do that here."
Some journalists do not think Wenham’s apology was contrite enough and are discussing taking the matter further.
Fowler refused to discuss an internal matter with Press Gazette.
By Jean Morgan