Poor investment and low morale highlighted in NUJ letter to Johnston Press shareholders

The National Union of Journalists has called on Johnston Press shareholders to encourage management to work with the union.

In an open letter, published on its website, being presented to the publisher’s shareholder’s at an AGM today, the union criticises cuts at Johnston Press.

The Johnston Press annual report boasts about ‘local content’, ‘teams of local experts’ and proclaims that ‘Content is King’. Yet behind the corporate jargon, the company has reduced staff in its editorial teams dramatically in the last 12 months, with so-called ‘back-office functions’ – which include newspaper content creators – being moved sometimes miles away from the communities they serve.

The much-hailed new content management system is ‘operational’ across the business. This is purely down to the hard work of journalists. The company’s failure to invest in new hardware made the shaky implementation of the system exceedingly difficult. Similar systems have been introduced successfully at other newspaper groups who recognised this was a key investment that couldn’t be brought in on the cheap.

Over 230 editorial staff have been made redundant; significantly, 85 per cent volunteered to leave, a testament to the poor morale amongst staff. Those made compulsory redundant were often treated badly – in some cases individuals were given only a few hours to make a choice between a huge pay cut and imposed relocation or being forced to leave. All of this has taken place at a company that claims to belong to ‘Investors in People’.

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