Journalists at the Norwich Evening News were so overworked the news editor once broke down in tears, an employment tribunal has heard.
A reporter is claiming constructive unfair dismissal – partly because then-editor David Bourn refused to enter her work for a journalism award.
She had submitted a number of campaigning articles, published in the Norwich Evening News, which sought to establish a link between Ministry of Defence tests in the Sixties involving the dropping of a toxic chemical called cadmium and the alleged high levels of throat cancer in Norfolk.
But the tribunal has heard that the paper’s deputy editor had received a phone call during the cadmium campaign from a BBC online reporter, who had carried out his own investigation, which cast doubt on figures used by the reporter in her reports.
As a result of the call from the BBC reporter, senior editors decided there was indeed a serious error in the reports and the editor refused to endorse her candidature for the awards.
The tribunal also heard that journalists on the Evening News regularly worked long hours and lacked support from their editor.
Former deputy news editor Dan Grimmer said the editor was “very, very, demanding”.
Grimmer, now a general reporter on the Evening News, added: “I felt David did not give enough support to people like me who were left to run the news desk pretty much on their own at times.”
Grimmer admitted he once worked from 7am, alongside her, both eventually leaving the office at 9.30pm.
But when she asked Grimmer if he recalled the incident he replied: “I don’t know.”
Grimmer commented: “It is no secret that there were staffing shortages at the Evening News. That was a constant of my time there.”
The tribunal has heard that she was once given a written warning for leaving work to catch a train to London before she had completed a story.
During the subsequent disciplinary hearing Bourn – who recently left his post – is said to have lost his temper with her.
She began a grievance procedure against Bourn, and Grimmer said he recalled the editor appearing in the newsroom and announcing that he was “not happy about it”.
Grimmer then faced questioning from the tribunal panel chairman Christopher Ash who said: “[Bourn] is a man who is a disciplinarian and all he can say is that he is not happy about it? Not exactly Randolph Hirst is it?”
Grimmer replied: “He was angry about it. He didn’t like it.”
A decision was deferred by the tribunal chairman.