Local people and politicians yesterday signaled their support for Newsquest journalists in Yorkshire who went on strike in protest at plans to move 25 sub-editing jobs to Wales.
Newspapers affected include the Bradford Telegraph and Argus, Northern Echo and The Press in York. There are 10 jobs at risk in Bradford, five in York and 10 in Darlington.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, who was on the picket line at Darlington, said: “The concern of local readers to have their newspapers produced locally was inspiring. After marching through the town centre we handed out lots of leaflets.
“Countless shoppers and passers-by took time out to stand and talk about the situation facing journalists here and in York and Bradford. “The clear message from readers was that Newsquest management is out of touch – readers want their local newspaper to be just that, a vibrant source of relevant news, information and entertainment, produced by journalists who are part of the local community and passionate about giving it a voice.
“It's high time Newsquest executives listened to their staff and to their readers. While this is a fight for jobs, it is also a vital struggle to defend an important quality of British newspapers: local papers must be relevant to the readership they seek to serve. You can’t do that from a production centre nearly three hundred miles away.”
City of York council leader James Alexander gave his support and that of colleagues to the striking journalists. York Central MP Hugh Bayley was in Brussels yesterday, but his office staff brought tea and biscuits to the strikers.
NUJ northern and Midlands assistant organiser Jane Kennedy said: “We had such tremendous support from locals, who all wanted to support their local newspaper staff. The nearby café brought us cups of tea.”
Tony Kelly and Mark Stead, joint fathers of chapel at York, said in a statement: "We are immensely proud of the NUJ York chapel and those in Bradford and Darlington for the way they have stood up for their friends, their colleagues, their paper and for quality journalism today. They have refused to allow their resolve to weaken in the face of threats from Newsquest management and have shown character, intelligence, warmth, strength and dignity in campaigning for the future of their newspaper – York's newspaper.
"Our message has been received and supported by the public, who know the human cost of these plans and the cost to their local paper.
“We hope it will reach the point where Newsquest has to listen, realise the damage these ineffectual and inefficient proposals will inflict on proud local newspapers and work with its staff and the NUJ to find a resolution to this dispute. We love journalism, we love our paper and we love our city. That is why we took a stand today and why that stand will continue."
At Bradford, a bouquet of leeks were delivered to Perry Austin-Clarke, the Bradford Telegraph and Argus editor-in- chief, representing the 10 jobs going to Wales. City council leader David Green visited the picket line and spent some time listening to strikers.
NUJ northern and Midlands organiser Chris Morley said: “The reaction of local people to the company's plan was one of horror. A woman drove up to the picket line at 7.30 to say she had heard it on the radio and wanted to tell us how appalled she was.
“Another man took a leaflet and then returned having read it to say how angry he was and that he would definitely write to the editor. “