Journalists on the Isle of Wight County Press have called for the proposed takeover of the independent weekly title by regional publishing giant Newsquest to be halted.
Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have said they fear Newsquest will cut staff on the paper, following recent cuts to its operations, hampering local news coverage on the island.
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The union has called on shareholders – who have been recommended by County Press directors to approve the deal with Newsquest – to stop the takeover for three months to allow existing management to “develop a business plan and a long-term strategy”.
The call comes as a businessman also asked for a delay to the deal while he developed a rival bid to buy the publisher, which also owns “alternative” news website Yoppul.
A statement from the Isle of Wight County Press NUJ chapel said: “We feel it is only right to raise our concerns before any decision is taken. We oppose in the strongest possible terms the sale of the County Press to Newsquest.
“We work in the industry and we know only too well what a Newsquest takeover means. We all have friends and former colleagues who have worked for once-independent papers now run by Newsquest. Note the past tense – they used to work there.
“Take a look at the fate of newspapers taken over by Newsquest, and you will see sweeping job losses and a huge drop in quality. We fear the same fate will befall the County Press.
“Dedicated, hard working and loyal staff will lose their jobs, and the breadth of detailed, well researched news articles, sports coverage, features and community news will be diminished enormously.
“Reporters will no longer have the time to cover court, or council meetings, or football matches, or village fetes, carnivals and horticultural shows… the things that make the County Press special, well known and well regarded by its readers.
“They are things that make the Island special. Newsquest have previously not been swayed by such concerns when making deep cuts.
“The people of the Island deserve a quality newspaper. We take huge pride in working for the County Press, and we all live and work in the community.
“We appreciate why the board has recommended that shareholders accept this offer, but Newsquest’s pledges to invest in the paper will mean nothing once the deal has been signed.
“Should shareholders vote for the sale, we are imploring them to give us three months’ grace before any deal is signed, enabling us to work with the existing management to develop a business plan and a long term strategy for the County Press .
“We know you care about the County Press and the Island community it serves. The County Press is worth fighting for, and worth saving, if we are given a chance.
“The County Press has been locally owned since it was founded in 1884. It is a community paper in the truest sense of the word. Let’s not throw that away.”
The Isle of Wight County Press newspaper has an average weekly circulation of more than 25,000, according to ABC figures for the six months to December last year.
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