Thursday, 11 August 2011

Jim Oldfield on his redundancy and campaign for a Parly inquiry into regional press ownership

Jim Oldfield is not going quitely after being made redundant as editor of the South Yorkshire Times by Johnston Press while joining the strike by NUJ members against job cuts ( see post below).

As well as fighting his case against JP he is urging all regional journalists to back his campaign for Parliament to investigate the domination of the regional press by a few large publishers.

Oldfield on his redundancy: "I have now been made redundant by JP (subject to appeal), in a brown paper envelope couriered to my home on Monday evening after close of play and shoved through my letterbox - a fine thank-you from a company for whom I worked for seven-plus years, for a maximum salary of £25,000 and from whom I claimed but a handful of expenses in those seven years.

"From 2004-8, I built the inaugural Community Newsletters series for South Yorkshire Newspapers - taking the series to the finals of the Paul Foot awards in London in 2008; the only non-"Fleet Street" outfit in the finals.

"From 2009-last Monday I edited the paid-for South Yorkshire Times. I inherited it after the editor of the Doncaster Free Press edited the title from Doncaster for three years, during which time its circulation fell from 6,500 to around (and under) 4,000.

I inherited it when it was making year on year losses in the region of 30pc in Jan 2009. Its ABC for 2010 was -3.3pc... the best paid-for performance in South Yorkshire. We were O2 Weekly Newspaper of the Year (Yorks and Humberside) runner-up in 2010. Under the redundancy plan drawn up by the editor of the Doncaster Free Press, I have now gone and he will resume editing the paper from Doncaster.

On his campaign: "I have launched a campaign, on the back of the Select Committee inquiry into Murdoch media practices, to get that committee to look into the abominable oligopoly in the regional Press, in which five proprietors own some 2/3 of all the UK's local papers.

"It is arguable that the local Press is the real cornerstone of free speech in this country, especially given the nationals' known political bias and in the case of the tabloids, concentration on "celeb" news.

"However, I have witnessed at Johnston Press and at least one other of these companies, a monolithic attitude of 'might is right' in their cavalier dealings with a free Press and indeed their own staff, which marks them out to be every bit as ruthless and poisonous as some of the worst aspects of News International.

"For this reason I am now calling for every regional journalist and activist to target their local MP over the Parliamentary recess, to press for the fullest regional/local Press inquiry - either to run alongside the Murdoch investigation, or separately.

"This probe should look at the way the big companies have used relaxed competition laws to buy up hundreds of titles and ruthlessly asset-strip their staffs (and thus our profession) with nothing more than profit in mind.

"They did this long before the country went bust - now their asset-stripping, in the face of reduced profits after the bubble burst, is truly horrific."

  • Pic: Demo in Doncaster on Saturday on behalf of striking journalists at South Yorkshire Newspapers, publisher of the South Yorkshire Times (NUJ).

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