Unless Johnston Press executives do something quickly, internal pressure could rival Eyjafjallajokull’s. Week after week the resentment bubbles up. A summary of recent events, according to the National Union of Journalists and previous reports:
- The company’s executives received juicy bonus packages while its staff endured (and continue to endure) an ongoing pay freeze.
- JP staff stuck abroad due to the ash cloud were asked to take it out of their holiday allowance, or as unpaid leave.
- Johnston Press journalists in Scarborough voted in favour of industrial action, and last Friday (30 April) took to the streets for the first strike in over 30 years at the Scarborough Evening News, Whitby Gazette, and Mercury.
- On the same day NUJ members attended the Edinburgh shareholders’ meeting, asking the board “questions about executive pay, staff morale and the pressures on journalists to continue to produce quality newspapers in the face of 12 per cent staff cuts, a pay freeze and inadequate training on the Atex editorial production system.” (NUJ May 2010)
Across the group, there was a 70 per cent vote by NUJ members for industrial action “to combat job losses and increased levels of stress and workload caused by the introduction of the Atex content magagement system,” according to the NUJ.
New content management system, Atex, is causing embarrassment for its journalists, resulting in misaligned pictures, or even missing pictures. They have difficulties with formatting the content properly.
Here in Leeds, on the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post, we have been waiting for months now to be told we are going Atex – i.e. replacing subs with templates for reporters to fill. We have heard from smaller centres all over the group what is likely to happen. It started to get close when we heard Scarborough subs had been “offered” redeployment to Sheffield – a two-hour drive on a good day.
Much of a recent NUJ meeting agenda was taken up by Northern divisional manager, Chris Green, says the anonymous correspondent. He adds:
We have seen a lot of nice suits pass through this place and walk away with pockets bulging, leaving the papers thinner and crappier.
JP’s recent strategy would suggest that the ‘suits’ aren’t really prioritising the web, after its failed pay wall trial – with reports of very (very) few subscribers. Journalists aren’t even asking for that much. Slattery’s man on the ground says:
…I do not want to make a stand for standards in journalism. I want to make the best of a bad job. I am not even sure I want to make a stand for strict demarcation between subs and reporters. But however you carve it up, somebody has to do the bloody work…