Job-threat editor publishes strike story on front page

A weekly newspaper editor threatened with redundancy has published a front-page story about staff walking out on indefinite strike against the proposed job cuts tomorrow.

It is the second time in a month that South Yorkshire Times editor Jim Oldfield has reported on Johnston Press‘ plans to make him, a reporter and an editorial assistant redundant in its Mexborough office – halving the number of staff on the newspaper.

And Oldfield’s insistence on covering the dispute is understood to have led to a run-in with management yesterday.

According to NUJ sources, South Yorkshire Newspapers editor in chief Graeme Huston was approached for a comment on the page one story on Wednesday, the day before it went to press. Again according to sources, the paper was late going to the printers while a dispute over the final wording of the piece was thrashed out.

Oldfield agreed to make some minor changes – but refused to alter key passages relating to the title’s performance when it was run by staff at the Doncaster Free Press and circulation fell from 5,500 to 4,000.

Oldfield wrote: ‘Since 2009, it has been run from Mexborough , during which time the inherited circulation losses were stemmed to make the title South Yorkshire’s best-performing paid-for newspaper last year, with an average loss of 3.3 per cent.”

In the company’s editors’ handbook chief executive John Fry states that ‘editors must be free to edit without management interference”.

Under plans being proposed by Johnston, the editor of the South Yorkshire Times, the sports editor of the Doncaster Free Press and the editor of the Goole Courier will be made redundant, and the Goole and Selby Times operations will be merged under one editor.

As editor-in-chief Huston would take over responsibility for the South Yorkshire Times based in Doncaster.

Last week NUJ members at South Yorkshire News voted unanimously in favour of an indefinite strike from tomorrow.

They also passed a second unanimous vote of no confidence in Huston, and no confidence votes in South Yorkshire Newspapers managing director John Bills and the Johntson Press senior management team in Edinburgh.

Johnston Press was unavailable for comment, but in the story that was published in today’s paper Bills was quoted as saying: “Following the proposal announced on 17 June to create a new multimedia hub in Doncaster for South Yorkshire Newspapers the company is disappointed that the NUJ Chapel for South Yorshire Newspapers have voted to take industrial action as from 15 Friday July.

“Steps have been taken to ensure that the quality and frequency of our publications will not suffer as a result of any action taken by the NUJ in South Yorkshire Newspapers.”

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