The local news chain has pushed its journalists too far
Journalists and staff at Newsquest South London are on strike today as part of a weeklong walk out over cutbacks and poor working conditions.
It follows an expose by the Press Gazette in August that carried reports of bullying, overwork, and a mass exodus of staff leading to a decline in the quality of local journalism across the Newsquest stable.
Today’s strike will run until next Wednesday, ahead of planned job losses that would leave just 12 reporters and four editors to produce 11 newspapers and eight related websites, according to the National Union of Journalists.
‘Newsquest is driving down standards, terms and conditions at work for journalists,’ said an NUJ spokesperson. ‘The company is making life a misery for its employees whilst continuing to maximise profits for bosses and shareholders.’
Newsquest is the second largest local and regional newspaper publisher in the UK, owned by US company Gannett. The NUJ said Newsquest’s latest company accounts show £60 million before tax in 2014. The company was forced to pay a London Living Wage after previous NUJ strike action.
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:
‘The NUJ is fighting against the cuts at Newsquest – our members want to stop the redundancies and produce quality journalism for the local communities they serve.
If you care about journalism and local democracy then I would urge you to show your support for our members going out on strike.’
She said well-wishers could visit the picket line outside Quadrant House in Sutton, near Sutton Railway Station, from 9am today, or Tweet using @NUJofficial and #NQstrike.
Newsquest has been contacted for comment.
The strike comes amid a wider crisis in journalism, with low print sales and advertising revenue turning serious outlets into clickbait factories. The trend was recently the subject of an episode of comedian John Oliver’s TV show Last Week Tonight.
One in five journalists now earns less than £19,200 a year, which is probably below the Living Wage for many, according to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
Frances Rafferty, NUJ comms and campaigns officer, wrote in LFF in August:
‘The newspaper industry is in crisis. Advertising revenues are low and are being scooped up by Google and Facebook. People have become used to not having to pay for news.
The response of newspaper owners has been to cut staff and costs often at the expense of investing in quality journalism.’
‘Newspaper owners, many of whom are making a profit and paying their executives handsome wages, should start to take responsibility for producing well-funded journalism so that our members can be the local watchdog, keeping tabs on the decisions made by local politicians, defending local services, supporting the local football team and giving a voice to the community.’
Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.