A new content-sharing deal between two neighbouring dailies in the North East could affect editorial independence and media plurality, the National Union of Journalists has warned.
The Trinity Mirror-owned Teesside Gazette in Middlesbrough will, according to the National Union of Journalists, provide up to 20 stories a day to the Newsquest-owned Northern Echo in Darlington.
The two papers are 16 miles apart. Although they cover each other's patches editorially, there is little cross-over in terms of circulation.
An email, seen by Hold the Front Page, from Gazette editor Chris Styles to his staff, specifies that they will send page leads, picture stories, shorts and briefs to the Darlington-based Echo.
He said that the paper will not send exclusives and the deal does not cover major stories such as serious crime or road accidents and the title will receive “a substantial amount of money” for this service.
Styles said in a statement: “It makes complete sense for publishers to co-operate when there is a mutual benefit. Our working relationship with the Northern Echo goes back many years and we are happy to build on it with this latest arrangement.”
Last December the two papers worked on a joint campaign to promote Stockton-on-Tees, which will be the setting for the second series of Channel 4’s Benefits Street.
Northern Echo editor Peter Barron told Holdthefrontpage his title will its own staff in the Teesside area to report on stories not covered by the deal.
Chris Morley, the National Union of Journalists’ Northern and Midlands organiser, said staff at the Echo are concerned that the deal is a cost-cutting measure to avoid replacing a reporter who left a few weeks ago.
He told Press Gazette: “This announcement came out of the blue for members at the Echo. Clearly we are concerned that this arrangement has the potential to cost jobs, but at the same time appears to put a question mark over editorial integrity and independence.
“We will be seeking a meeting with management over the implications.”
He continued that there is a “wider issue” that the deal means the “closing off of another area of media plurality and choice for the people of Teesside”.
“If you want to get something covered, you have fewer and fewer choices,” he said.
Press Gazette is awaiting comment from the Northern Echo.
Picture: Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge (Shutterstock).