A new blog has been launched by a Northcliffe journalists called The Death of Journalism.
It is hard hitting stuff reflecting how cuts imposed by the "money men" have hit the morale of journalists and predicts the continuing demise of the local press.
It says: "Over the last year reporters have weathered a number of mind-boggling changes instigated from the powers that be at Northcliffe. It began when they were told that, because profit had fallen (probably little more than a single percent), the company was to make a number of “efficiency savings”. Meaningless platitudes were dolled out to petrified reporters about keeping redundancies to a minimum. Many learned their jobs effectively didn’t exist, and reporters from papers across the newsgroup were invited to apply for each others positions, kind of like a morbid game of musical chairs.
"Only no one wanted to play, and in the end no one swapped jobs. Instead over 90 people were shown the door, many of them sub-editors and support staff, the heartbeat of their papers, people who had given Northcliffe, and countless other owners beforehand, years of loyal and unstinting service."
It adds: "For whatever reason, be it the transient population of the area, many of whom either have little connection with the patch or don’t read English fluently; the inability to cope with the “threat” of the Internet, the plummeting pagination compared to the price of the paper; the steadfast refusal to consider remedies which cost money; or the fact that, arguably, the paper struggles to appeal to the community it represents, the readership of our paper has fallen dramatically over the last three years.
"What it isn’t down to is a lack of commitment or passion on the part of those who write the paper. The current editor sets a high standard, encouraging reporters to bring in off diary exclusives and go the extra mile for stories. Despite having obstacles constantly thrown in their way, the vast majority of the reporters strive to do this. And like reporters across the country they don’t do it for the money – I mean the average wage of a reporter is peanuts compared to the skill and dedication required– but because they love the job.
"Yet the money men, some even backed up people who, years ago, used to be the penniless peons who did all the hard work, can barely recognise this contribution. In the name of saving money they will, seemingly, do anything to break the spirit of those who work their fingers to the bone to produce a paper they are proud of.
"For example, a few weeks ago, reporters received – by email – a notice saying that, as of the beginning of May, they could not claim expenses for working through lunch and they needed to work more evening jobs in order to claim days in lieu."
It continues: "There are countless other examples, too numerous and depressing to recall all at once, of the money men grinding will power and morale into dust. Yet nothing is ever done about it. The office doesn’t have union representation and the most that results from ridiculous directives is a few expletives, rolled eyes and the unfulfilled promise to look for a different career."Yet all it does is add to my almost complete disillusionment with the job and journalism as a whole. What I’ve described isn’t new – it’s repeated across hundreds of newsrooms across the country. The erosion of local journalism has been long in the making but surely it has entered its final death throws when efficiency changes effectively bind the reporter to his desk, unable to go out and cover anything but the biggest stories in person, with no time to do the things that should be the heart and soul of a local paper – meet the community, champion its causes effectively, cover issues in depth, etc. No wonder no one is picking up newspapers if the people who write it are being relentlessly ground into submission.
"The end result of all this will be the end of our paper...What’s happening at our paper, what’s happening across the country is nothing short of the death of journalism."
- NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear says of the new website: “This cry of anguish from a Northcliffe reporter represents the canary down the mine of local newsgathering."