Browse > Home /

Johnston Press strike breakers brag about newsroom antics on Facebook

Johnston Press journalists picket the offices of the South Yorkshire Times

Johnston Press in South Yorkshire are out on indefinite strike over planned redundancies at five titles in the region. (See more from Journalism.co.uk about the strike action at this link).

Management have come in for a lot of flak from the unions over their handling of the strike, which included asking a 16-year-old schoolboy on work experience to stay on an extra week and help cover the newsdesk.

Further embarrassment for the company comes in the form of Tom Bills and friend Jack Reed. Tom – the son of Johnston Press managing director John Bills – and Jack were drafted in to help out on the newsdesk of the Doncaster Free Press, according to NUJ deputy organiser for the region Lawrence Shaw, despite having no journalistic experience.

But rather than hide their faces away like strike breakers might normally do, ferried through a picket line on a bus with wire mesh on the windows, Tom and Jack publicised their newsroom antics on Facebook, for the world to see.

Shaw spotted the Facebook status updates and reposted them on his blog.

They include such gems from Tom as:

workin in a newsroom in doncaster, av been for a couple of weeks! Its reaaaaalllly goood!:) x

is it bad that I found the word ‘erection’ funny at work in a story about a building being built?!!:)

sooooo bored at work I’ve actually started look at the clock more than my computer screen.

Bored, but managing to get though it:

just thinkin of the dollar atm!

As, I’m sure, are the journalists out on strike with no pay.

And from Tom’s equally eloquent friend Jack:

nothing get a man erect like doncaster editorial. lets toss each other off.

And:

can u listen to ur ipod in a newsroom wen ur sposed to be workin?

Humorous yes, but as Shaw points out, the move raises questions about John Bills’ judgement:

Why did he employ his own son and his friend to work in editorial when neither appear to have any journalistic training or experience, then allow them to sarcastically spout forth on facebook belittling the newspapers he runs? It reinforces the belief held by the NUJ that John Bills cares not a jot about the editorial coverage in the newspaper, or even the reputation of the papers.

Had any ordinary NUJ member been caught mouthing off on facebook in the same way, they would have almost certainly been sacked for bringing the company into disrepute. So seeing as John Bills is ultimately responsible for employing his son to sit in the office and mouth off about how crap it is working at the Doncaster Free Press, surely Johnston Press directors should be seriously questioning his suitability for running a newspaper group.

Tags: , , , , ,

Similar posts:

Strike dates announced at Newsquest South London

June 9th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Job losses

Journalists at titles within Newsquest South London have announced that their planned strike action will take place on Wednesday and Thursday next week (15 and 16 June). The strikes follow a dispute over redundancies, a reduction in editorial space, a review of a 2 per cent pay rise and an office relocation.

At the end of May Journalism.co.uk reported that members of the National Union of Journalists at Newsquest South London voted in favour of strike action, with 22 out of 23 returns of a ballot in favour.

Staff at newspapers in the area, which covers Surrey, Sutton and Twickenham, have been working to rule since 15 April.

NUJ head of publishing Barry Fitzpatrick said: “Our members’ overwhelming decision to take strike action in defence of jobs and quality was the inevitable result of a wrong-headed management policy. But it is not too late for the company to show some sense and sit down with us to discuss the future security of the papers which are so important to our members and their communities.”

Earlier last month the division announced 12 job cuts at a series of titles in the area, including the loss of the sports and leisure department at one of the South London offices.

Tags: , , , , ,

Similar posts:

Jon Slattery: ‘You can slice the salami only so many times,’ warns ex-Argus man

Former Brighton Argus deputy editor Frank le Duc guest posts on Jon Slattery’s blog about the recent strikes at the Argus and other Newsquest titles, and about the challenges facing regional publishers from new local competition.

The difficulty for companies like Newsquest is that their profits are not coming from a resurgence in advertising revenues but a ruthless cutting of costs.

Newsquest has used a salami-slicing technique which has its limitations. You can slice the salami only so many times before there’s no meat left.

Full post at this link…

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

Brighton Argus: Twitter account and strike blog boost picket line protests

Today journalists from the Newsquest-owned Brighton Argus took to the picket line for the second day of strikes, in protest at plans to relocate their subbing operations to Southampton and the loss of seven jobs at the title.

The strike action on both days went beyond the picket line in Brighton, with campaigning staff using social media to spread the word. The group produced a Twitter account @argus_strike, posting videos, pictures and comments throughout the action.

There was also a Argus strike blog set up in the lead up to the action, featuring information on why the staff were striking, campaign links as well as vox-pops with readers. Web editor Jo Wadsworth even called on the title’s community correspondents to support the action by not crossing a virtual picket line, and postponing any submissions to the site until the weekend.

The sub-editors made redundant say they were originally told today would be their last day, but told Journalism.co.uk yesterday they may be asked to work on for another two to four weeks to help with the movement of production down to Southampton.

Members of the National Union of Journalists, local politicians and other supporters stood outside the offices in the south-east town, with the number of journalists estimated to reflect around three quarters of the editorial team at the picket’s peak.

Journalism.co.uk produced this video report, speaking to members of the union and those losing their jobs.

Tags: , , , ,

Similar posts:

NUJ members ballot for strike at north-east Newsquest titles

November 17th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Job losses, Newspapers

National Union of Journalists members across a series of Newsquest-owned north-east titles have started to ballot for industrial action against proposed redundancies and a continuing pay freeze, according to a report from the union.

Members at Newsquest Northeast, which includes The Darlington and Stockton Times, Durham Times and the Advertiser series, have also unanimously passed a motion of no confidence in the chief executives of Newsquest and Newsquest’s US parent company Gannett.

In the NUJ release, the union’s Northern and Midlands organiser, Chris Morley said the proposed loss of eight jobs in the region is the “final straw” for staff:

The proposed redundancies spell disaster for the titles. It is a short-sighted policy that will result in lower quality and readership declining, as editorial staff are stretched ever more thinly.

Staff are shocked at Newsquest’s preparedness to jettison so many of their most valuable assets – experienced, dedicated staff who have been responsible for the success of the titles. We are not prepared to stand by and allow Newsquest to press ahead with their plans for staff redundancies and, ultimately, business suicide.

Tomorrow NUJ members at the Brighton Argus, also part of the Newquest group, will start a two-day strike in response to job losses at the title and the relocation of its subbing operation to Southampton.

Tags: , , , , ,

Similar posts:

#bbcstrike: What’s going on at the BBC today?

November 5th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Broadcasting, Journalism

This is our first attempt at using Storify on the blog – we’ve got some feedback for its creators, who we interviewed here, but let us know what you think:


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

BBC staff unions to hold meetings on scheduled strike dates

October 19th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Journalism

As the new ballot on BBC pensions continues this week staff unions will be holding meetings to allow members of Bectu, the NUJ and Unite to put further questions to union officials.

The first takes place today (Tuesday 19 October) from 1pm to 2pm at the Think Tank, at the BBC’s Media Centre in White City and the second is scheduled for tomorrow, also from 1pm to 2pm, this time in the Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House, Bectu reported this week.

The unions opened a new consultative ballot last week following another offer from the BBC, which halted strikes planned for 5 and 6 October. The National Union of Journalists has since announced that two more planned strike dates, previously scheduled for today and tomorrow, would be postponed to enable a ballot to be carried out, which will close on 28 October.

A 24 hour ‘work to rule’ will take place however on Friday and additional strike dates may be named if the ballot records a no vote.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

BBC unions prepare staff for strike action

September 29th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Business, Jobs

BBC staff unions have posted a series of questions and answers for staff in preparation for potential strikes over pension proposals, which could start next week if an agreement cannot be reached.

Last week union members voted in rejection of new proposals put forward by the BBC earlier this month and the union said it will now “press ahead” with its plans, while maintaining negotiations.

The NUJ and BECTU have published a Q&A for members about the strikes. In their responses they say that, “in the absence of a significant new offer from the BBC”, strike action will commence at 00.01am on 5 October and end at 23.59pm on 6 October, which will coincide with the Conservative Party conference.

A final decision on strike action is expected to be announced on Friday.

This week it was also announced that the NUJ’s general secretary Jeremy Dear will be speaking at a Coalition of Resistance protest against government spending cuts outside Downing Street on 20 October, another date earmarked for strike action at the BBC.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

Johnston Press Atex system is bad news, but the death of the sub-editor is inevitable

Last month Johnston Press journalists, enraged by a new publishing strategy and online/print content management system (CMS) called Atex, voted for group-wide industrial action. Atex will make reporters responsible for subbing and editing their own newspaper stories using pre-made templates. The vote was thwarted by a High Court challenge; a re-ballot is underway.

Now several other companies including Archant are either using or considering using the same system.

The NUJ has a point when they say that with fewer staff and less checks and balances, more errors will get through – this aberration of a front page in the JP-owned Bedfordshire Times & Citizen recently is a classic example.

Yesterday I questioned exactly why the union was opposing Atex; included in the union’s greviances were baffling and unexplained “health and safety” concerns. The union later told Journalism.co.uk that they meant that it adds to staff stress levels.

But, I went on in conversations both online and privately, isn’t this part of a wider problem? The NUJ has a fundamental belief that sub-editors should sub stories and reporters write them. Like the pre-Wapping ihousen-printers that jealously guarded their very specific, outdated roles, the ideal outcome for the union is to maintain the status quo and protect jobs.

The reality isn’t quite that simple. Atex, as more than one person said, is far from the innovative answer that newspapers need. One person with knowledge of how Atex works, who works for a company that is planing to implement it and asked not to be named, put it to me like this:

We’re still in transition in my newsroom at the moment – we haven’t switched to using it for the web yet. However, if the system goes ahead as planned we will not be able to insert in-line links into stories, nor will we be able to embed content from anywhere else online. It’s possible to build link boxes that sit next to web stories, but it’s time consuming compared to in-line links – and if our current CMS is anything to go by, in the press of a busy newsroom, it won’t get done.

That sounds like a retrograde step. Far from holding back innovation, it sounds like JP journalists are right to oppose the move. This is from a company whose former chairman of nine years, Roger Parry, last week criticised the very board that he chaired for not investing enough in digital media (via Press Gazette). Exactly who else is there to blame?

But it gets worse:

For those of us who possess data skills and want to make mashups, visualisations and so on, this is a massive inhibition – even if we find the time to innovate or create something really special for our papers, we’ll have no outlet for it. It also means we can’t source video or images for our stories in innovative ways – no YouTube embeds or Flickr slideshows – cutting us off from huge resources that could save time, energy and money while enhancing our web offering.

It’s astonishing that we’re even considering such a backwards step to a presumably costly proprietory system when so many cheaper, more flexible, open source solutions exist for the web.

Regional reporters, web editors and even overall editors will read that and find this frustration of digital ideas by technical, budgetary limitations very familiar. The last point rings loudest of all: cheap, dynamic blogging solutions like WordPress and Typepad provide all newsrooms need to create a respectable news site. Publishing executives seem to find it hard to believe that something free to use can be any good, but just look at what’s coming in the in-beta WordPress 3.0 (via @CasJam on Mashable).

So the union’s misgivings in this case appear to be well placed. The drop in quality from Johnston’s cost-cutting is there for all to see in horrendous subbing errors, thinner editions and entire towns going without proper coverage.

Unfortunately, journalists have to accept that no amount of striking is going to bring back the staff that have gone and that times have changed. Carolyn McCall’s parting shot as CEO of Guardian Media Group was to repeat her prediction (via FT.com) that advertising revenues will never return to pre-recession levels – and don’t forget Claire Enders’ laugh-a-minute performance at the House of Commons media select committee, in which she predicted the death of half the country’s 1,300 local and regional titles in the next five years.

Regional publishers may not all have a solution that combines online editorial innovation with a digital business model right now. But to get to that point, reporters will have to cooperate and accept that their roles have changed forever – “sub-editor” may be a term journalists joining the industry in five years will never hear.

Patrick Smith is a freelance journalist, event organiser and formerly a correspondent for paidContent:UK and Press Gazette. He blogs at psmithjournalist.com and is @psmith on twitter.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

NUJ Release: Johnston Press strikers go south

“Strikers from Yorkshire demonstrated at a London PR firm today as their employers – Johnston Press – announced more big profits,” a release from the National Union of Journalists said.

“The Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post journalists were joined by NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear as they leafleted JP chiefs and city workers about their fight against job cuts,” the report continues.

Full release at this link…

Also, a photograph of the protest over at Jon Slattery’s blog.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Similar posts:

© Mousetrap Media Ltd. Theme: modified version of Statement