City leader urges York Press owners to reconsider Welsh move

Cllr James Alexander: 'Local media allows debate'
2 Dec 2013 @ 4.28 pm
| Business
Cllr James Alexander: 'Local media allows debate'
Cllr James Alexander: ‘Local media allows debate’

Council leader James Alexander has written to the boss of York Press owners Newsquest urging him to reconsider plans to outsource some of its journalism to Wales.

The national media group, which owns more than 200 newspapers in Britain, wants pages of the paper to be subbed and laid out at an office in Newport, Gwent, in a move which could see up to five sub-editors at the Walmgate paper lose their jobs.

Under the same scheme, more jobs could go at two other Newsquest newspapers – 11 are at risk on the Bradford Telegraph & Argus and seven at the Northern Echo in Darlington.

Today Cllr Alexander joined with the leaders of Bradford and Darlington councils, Cllrs David Green and Bill Dixon respectively, to call on Newsquest chairman and chief executive Paul Davidson to rethink the switch.

“Local media plays a huge part in the democratic life of our towns and cities,” their letter to Mr Davidson says.

“The relationship between local authority and local press can be interesting at times but it is significant to our residents, in allowing debate in a city. It provides an essential mechanism for ensuring elected representatives are held to account by the public.”

Sub-editors scrutinise the accuracy of reporters’ copy, as well as checking for grammatical accuracy, ensuring articles are legally safe to publish, writing headlines and captioning pictures.

This work requires a good understanding of each newspaper’s circulation area, say the council leaders. “It is our belief that the strength of a local press, much like a council, is founded on its connection with the communities it serves,” the letter goes on.

“Critical in this relationship is a clear understanding of local context. Without this, it is hard to imagine how an editorial line could accurately represent the areas which are of most importance to residents.

“Against the backdrop of previous job-losses and reductions at regional offices, we are concerned about the loss of jobs and viability of local newspapers in our cities if this trend continues and would urge you to reconsider this latest decision.”

The letter concludes: “We would like to see sub-editing remain in our region.”

Mr Davidson, who according to the National Union of Journalists enjoyed pay of £557,175 in 2012 plus a performance related payment of £297,000, has not yet commented on the furore.

Newsquest is owned by US group Gannett, and saw total operating profits up £2 million or 3.5 per cent to £58.8 million in its last accounts.