A Newsquest reporter travelled to the US to remind shareholders of the publisher’s parent company Gannett that its journalists “work their socks off”.
Amy Fenton, chief reporter at the Mail in Cumbria and mother of the chapel for the National Union of Journalists at its Barrow office, attended Gannett’s annual general meeting alongside NUJ Newsquest group chapel coordinator Chris Morley and members of US union News Guild-CWA yesterday.
Fenton (pictured) was able to speak in front of the AGM at Gannett’s headquarters in McLean, Virginia by acting as proxy for a shareholder.
Addressing shareholders, executives and employees the 34-year-old said: “I’ve travelled all the way from England to attend today’s AGM because amid all the uncertainty and confusion within our industry I wanted to stand before you and act as a reminder than you have some incredibly talented and dedicated reporters, here and in the UK, who work their socks off and that is ultimately because we love the papers we work for and the communities we serve.”
She said afterwards: “Being able to flag up the hard work and dedication of the reporters who, like myself, give their lives to the job and care so much about the newspapers and communities we serve was an incredible opportunity for me and highlighting our commitment, not only to journalism but to the success of our papers and our employers, was something I was really keen to do.
“I was extremely nervous at the prospect of speaking in front of so many people and I wasn’t sure how it would be received but everyone was so kind to me and I was overwhelmed by how many came over to shake my hand and thank me afterwards.
“My bosses at Newsquest, and Gannett, were so welcoming and it was an absolute honour to be able to speak on behalf of reporters who work so hard and who deserve to be recognised for the role we play.”
Also at the AGM, rival US publisher MNG Enterprises faced a setback in its hostile takeover bid after its three nominees failed to win seats on the Gannett board.
Newsquest journalists had raised fears that they could be “collateral damage” in any takeover, especially as MNG, also known as Media News Group or Digital First Media, is “renowned for cost cutting and job slashing”.
Gannett shareholders turned down MNG’s $12 per share takeover bid in April, saying it undervalued the company, and yesterday elected all eight of the company’s own director nominees to the board.
Gannett said the result showed shareholders recognise the “continued progress we have made toward our ongoing digital transformation”.
“We remain focused on executing our strategy to create value for our customers and shareholders by continuing to be a news leader and driving growth in digital subscribers, audience engagement and advertising and marketing services revenues, while upholding the company’s commitment to journalistic excellence,” it added.
The NUJ highlighted that it remains concerned by MNG’s takeover plans, job cutting, and “dire conditions” faced by Newsquest journalists in the UK.
The union claimed many Newsquest staff have not had a cost of living pay rise in nine of out of the past 11 years, with the typical trained daily journalist earning £22,249. The NUJ claimed this is around £5,079 less than the pay of reporters at rival publishers.
Morley said he and Fenton attended the AGM, the first time in 15 years the NUJ has sent representatives, because they were “determined to bring the realities of being a Newsquest journalist directly to the big decision-makers in the US”.
Gannett owns USA Today and hundreds of local newspapers in the US, as well as Newsquest, which is the UK’s second largest regional publisher and has been expanding its portfolio in the past year.
MNG is owned by New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital. It publishes about 200 newspapers in the US including the Denver Post, Boston Herald and San Jose Mercury News.
Newsquest has been contacted for comment.
Picture: Amy Fenton