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Closure of Hebden Bridge Times office

From Susan Press

Friday, 13 April 2012

The closure of the offices of the Hebden Bridge Times, Todmorden News and the Brighouse Echo that Susan Press reports is part of a much bigger set of cuts by the Johnston Press, which seems to be more worried about its profits than about providing a decent news service for its readers.

This is a real blow to our local community and regional journalism. It is part of a trend across the country which has seen hundreds of local offices closing and weekly papers re-locating to news 'hubs' far from the communities they serve.

The first paper I ever worked on, the Rossendale Free Press, used to have a thriving HQ in the middle of Rawtenstall.

Its staff now work from Chadderton near Oldham along with 14 other titles all relying on e-mail, "phone bashing" and press releases for stories.
The HB Times will now operate from Halifax if the current proposals go ahead. Perhaps people who care about their local news could write to newspaper owners Johnston Press expressing their anger.

My union, the NUJ, continues to fight to save regional journalism. But the sad fact is it is a battle we are losing.

It is ironic and very sad that having invested in the change to tabloid format the HB Times as we know it will cease to be. Sad for the staff and for our local community

From Graham Barker

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Let's not get too carried away here. The HBT isn't actually very good and hasn't been for some years. It could be produced from Johnston Press HQ in Edinburgh, or Bernard Ingham's back bedroom in Surrey, and few of us would notice any difference. The same goes for the Courier, whose 'news' now comes largely from press releases and police bulletins. So although the closure of the Hebden Bridge office ought indeed to be 'a real blow to our local community', the HBT itself has made sure that it won't be.

From Jenny Shepherd

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The closure of the offices of the Hebden Bridge Times, Todmorden News and the Brighouse Echo that Susan Press reports is part of a much bigger set of cuts by the Johnston Press, which seems to more worried about its profits than about providing a decent news service for its readers.

Johnston Press's cuts last week include axing the posts of editor for the Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, the Scotsman and the Lancashire Evening Post, and halving the eight deputy editor posts in Lancashire. Advertising staff on the Yorkshire papers in Leeds have been told they have to move to Sheffield. The Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post will both be edited by one editorial director.

The Union News website reports NUJ Northern and Midlands organiser Chris Morley as saying: "The editorial teams in Johnston Press's titles have been subjected to constant job attrition over a number of years and our members' ability to produce quality journalism has been severely eroded in that time. These latest cuts are extremely worrying, not only in the signal they give about the company's commitment to quality and localism in its content, but also the brutal treatment to which staff are being subjected."

The Yorkshire Post/Yorkshire Evening Post joint NUJ Chapel says,
"Under Johnston Press's control the editorial staff of the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post has been subjected to repeated redundancies which have reduced the workforce by 40 per cent . . . Editorial quality has inevitably suffered...

We hope that the wider community that these titles have served for many years will share our concern at a time when Yorkshire needs a strong and coherent voice to promote the interests of the region and those who live in it."

So, if journalistic standards at Hebden Bridge Times may have been slipping of recent years, it's not for want of trying from the journalists who work there. Johnston Press has been cutting staff for ages and not resourcing its local papers properly to do their jobs.

Peter Lazenby, joint father of the National Union of Journalists chapel at Yorkshire Post Newspapers, said in the Guardian: "The papers have been a really important voice for the Yorkshire region and we wonder what it will mean for the community. They have had clout from the street corner to parliament and now we don't know what is coming. If it is the worst we will turn to those communities and ask them to join in our fight. A diminishing of that voice is a diminishing of the democratic process. That must be worth fighting for."

From Anne H

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Why are Johnson Press making these cuts? Well it is almost certain that they are selling fewer papers than they used to.

My parents used to order the delivery of the Tod News every week for as long as I can remember - and so did everybody else I knew. When I moved back to Hebden in the nineties I started to get the HB TImes every week (and sometime the Tod News as well). These days I read the weekly A3 free sheet to find out what's going to happen in the week ahead, and I read the HebWeb and other websites for news and views and for reports of what happened last week.

The local paper is no longer my first choice for job adverts or small ads - there's a wider choice as to where to look these days - from shop windows to websites to job centre etc.

I do occasionally buy a Hebden Bridge Times, but I find the only thing that I can't find elsewhere is the obituary section. Which is important to people who have lived around here for a long time, but less so for newcomers.

It could be that the worsening quality of the paper is responsible for it's decreasing readership, but it could also be the other way around.

From Andrew Booth

Monday, 16 April 2012

"is part of a much bigger set of cuts by the Johnston Press, which seems to more worried about its profits than about providing a decent news service for its readers."

I'm sure that everything JP do is to make a profit, they are a business after all!

I don't read the Bridge Times as it is absolutely dire, if anyone has ever bothered to read the horoscopes they will have wondered how much 'Reuben Skyjuice' gets paid for coming up with his readings; perhaps he has some issues or is in a trance - either way; readers are paying for poor quality news and features - most of which are available on the internet over a week before you read them in the paper!

From Cllr Tim Swift

Monday, 16 April 2012

It's certainly right to see the closure of these offices as part of a long-term process of cuts in Johnston-press run papers, rather than as isolated events. And if, as some of the commentators suggest, the quality of coverage is not as good as it used to be, that in itself will be a part of the process of reduced reporter time and resources that's been going on over several years.

Whilst some of the changes may be the inevitable result of the impact of the web on print media, there's also plenty of evidence that Johnston Press is largely the victim of its own errors. There is a short but interesting piece in "Creative Disruption", a book by Simon Waldman on the impact of the internet on various businesses, explaining how Johnston Presses massive acquisition of local titles in the early part of the last decade brought short-term benefits but simply stored up long-term problems which have now come home to roost with a vengeance.

"Acquisition and margin improvement help deliver great results in a stable or growing market, but in a sector facing structural change they were simply buying more of the same problems."


As we perhaps suspected, there was more to come and it does appear that in effect the Courier is also becoming a weekly paper, with a website. See this link on the site today.

I'm not entirely sure what "platform neutral" publishing really means ....

From David Telford

Thursday, 19 April 2012

I think this is about facing realities. It's interesting that this complaint is posted on a free to view internet site rather than a newspaper. The printed media has had and will have difficulties to come, online media is becoming the favoured way to get their news be it local or national. Furthermore, the advertising revenues are dwindling. The biggest revenues for a local paper were the recruitment ads & property ads and recruiters and estate agents used to consider it the primary method of promotion that of course has changed dramatically in the last 10 years.
The electronic age has meant we need less & less office space, the amount of empty office space is incredible and owners will soon realise that even if the economy improves, the need for space will not return when people can work from home.

Profit seems to be a dirty word but nobody goes into business to be a busy fool and if a business does not plan ahead, especially in a declining industry, they will go under. For any organisation, it should not be spending money when there is a more cost-effective way of doing things, ultimately, minimising costs ensures that jobs and organisation's future are protected as much as possible.

From Jonathan Timbers

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Hebden Bridge Times has always been something of a joke, but one which lies at the heart of our town's identity. The Bridge Times has long been part of its charming dysfunctionality, its essential unfunkiness.

Recently, I've started buying it again and frankly I think it's in danger of becoming really professional. Lets pray that that those who know lots about the market (sorry, 'the Market', we are referring here to the Godhead after all), but very little about people or communities find a way of preserving its flavour in a new context - or should I say maintain its brand identity on a new communications platform.

From Cllr Tim Swift

Friday, 20 April 2012

There's an interesting post on Courier Editor Tim Robinson's blog about the move to a weekly Courier

There is also a similar story in today's paper, but strangely I can't find it on line yet!

From Gerry P

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Having perused the new Evening Courier website a few times, it came to my attention that every item about a fire in the area was accompanied by the same picture . . . of a fire engine.

Feeling I had grasped the concept of what a fire engine looked like, I opened up one of the stories, thinking perhaps there was a news picture inside.

Not so - but instead, a note at the bottom of the story asking "do you have a photo of this incident? If so please email it to..."

Well, it's one thing to publish happy pictures from events submitted by people promoting charities and good causes - having presumably sacked all the press photographers.

But isn't it a tad irresponsible to encourage members of the public to lurk ghoulishly around fires and accidents taking pictures and getting in the way of the emergency services?