Grey Cardigan: October column

SO I’M sitting in my office flicking through one of our paid-for weeklies. Given that it’s staffed by one man and a dog, it’s not at all bad. Lots of local stuff that no-one else will ever get, bags of useful information and a couple of decent pictures. I’m pleasantly surprised.


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And then the Eminence Grease, our managing director, wanders in and shatters the moment.


‘Bad news, Grey,’he smirks. ‘Bench-marking is back. Another round on the way. You should have the email from Head Office in the next few minutes. Good luck.”


He slimes away, leaving behind a vile vapour trail of knock-off Paco Rabanne bought on the market, and goes off to menace a tele-ad girl with body issues.


My heart sinks as the message of doom plummets into the inbox. It’s a repeat of the exercise we did last year, which eventually led to a cull of almost a third of our editorial staff.


The email is almost 1,000 words long. It demands all sorts of details about our FTE numbers, departmental staffing, any freelance staff used, what the freelance spend is, how many editions we do, how many change pages, how many stories we originate, how many stories we sub and who subs what … it goes on and on. And all the information has to be entered on a fiendish spreadsheet and sent off to the deluded fuckwit who allegedly runs our editorial division.


I know what’s coming. This spreadsheet is just a fancy suicide note. Yet more of us are going to go as the fools at the helm of this sinking ship continue to pursue their unattainable, barmy margins.


And do you know what’s worse; what really, really hurts? The idiot condemning us to more months of misery has sent the email written in … wait for it … Comic fucking Sans. If I thought it was deliberate, I might even admire the irony.


I MET a regional daily newspaper manager the other day who seemed mystified at his title’s appalling ABC performance – down to the point at which weekly publication surely beckons.


‘I don’t understand it Grey,’he said. ‘We’re coming out of the slump now, revenue should be picking up, but the sale is killing us. Advertisers are spending again, but they’re spending elsewhere. What’s going on?”


I looked at him, thought once, thought twice, and then said nothing. If he can’t see that sacking half your journalists, dropping editions, closing your district offices, abandoning same-day printing, reducing the print run and slashing the marketing budget might possibly have some impact on your sales figures, then I’m not going to explain it to him.


ALTHOUGH I’ve long since had the boot for displaying anti-union attitudes, I do feel sorry for the kids who still cough up their membership fees to the NUJ. In the face of the biggest crisis to ever hit our industry, you’d want the Trots to be out there coming up with constructive ideas for how we might protect jobs. But no – get this, the latest master plan from General Secretary Jeremy Dear:


The idea of a work-in, sit-in or occupation is being resurrected and talked about seriously where communities are losing their local newspaper…

Given the state of the industry it’s almost certainly not a matter of if, but when, a group of NUJ members decide to occupy their workplace. A victory for them would undoubtedly inspire and give strength and confidence to all those fighting to save jobs.”


I’m sorry, but the man’s a fucking loon. The bosses are going to love that – a newsroom full of journalists, defiantly working away to get their paper out while not being paid? The management suits will be sniggering up their pin-striped sleeves.


This is an extract from the Grey Cardigan’s October column. For the full version, see the subscription offers elsewhere on this site.








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