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July 27, 2012

Will NI be moved by surge of support for sacked Sun features editor Matt Nixson?

By Dominic Ponsford1

My piece revisiting the case of Matt Nixson a year after his abrupt dismissal as features editor of The Sun has generated the most impassioned response of any story I’ve worked on at Press Gazette.

The NUJ has supported Nixson in his legal fight against News International and when I phoned up deputy general secretary Barry Fitzpatrick for an update on the case last week he told me he was “baffled” as to why NI had placed Nixson in “suspended animation” – a reference to the fact that he has been cut off with no pay, yet is unable to find other work because of the question hanging over his reputation.

Some 150 comments (at time of writing) have been made on that piece and, incredibly unusually for a story about alleged wrongdoing involving a redtop journalist, almost none of them are negative.

Journalists from across the industry have put their heads above the parapet with signed comments testifying to Nixson’s professionalism and urging the publisher to either reinstate him or settle the case – thereby allowing him get on with his life and support his family.

After a year in which bent journalists have brought our whole industry into disrepute, Matt Nixson clearly seems to be one of the good guys.

The Guardian has picked up on the story and reports today that Nixson is “in talks” to return to The Sun.

I spoke to NI  and asked them what their reaction was to the surge of sympathy for Nixson.

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Their only response was to confirm, as they have done before, that “discussions have taken place” (past tense).

That said, it’s worth noting that there has been no briefing against Nixson from inside NI and no guidance offered at all about how his sacking might be justified.

As far as I know there is no missing piece in this jigsaw which could explain the way he has been treated.

My hunch is that NI want to sort this and move on and fingers crossed they will do so soon.

Whatever faults have been exposed over the last year about NI and the wider Murdoch empire it has always had a reputation as an employer that rewards loyalty and looks after journalists who work incredibly hard to produce its papers.

In view of the huge sympathy their clearly is for Matt Nixson across the industry, settling this case quickly might go a long way towards restoring that reputation.


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