Johnston Press weekly has front page production howler

Free weekly the Bedford Times and Citizen is the latest Johnston Press title to suffer a major production howler on the front page.

In this week’s edition of the paper, out today, the front page carries the words ‘headline headghgh’with the words ‘strapline for main story like this if needed”. The paper has a free distribution 58,565 to homes in the Bedfordshire area.

The error comes as journalists across Johnston Press mull group-wide strike action in protest against staffing levels and the introduction of the Atex production system.

Press Gazette understands that Atex, which allows reporters to input stories directly on to page layouts, has been introduced across Johnston Press titles in the south of England.

In April, the NUJ blamed the ‘rushed’introduction of Atex for a major production error at paid-for daily newspaper the Sheffield Star.

The paper attempted to display a ‘rogues’ gallery’of a dozen men involved in a train brawl on the front page, but a production problem led to the images being largely blacked out.

At the time there were further reports that the South Yorkshire Times had appeared with blank pages.

Journalists across Johnston Press, which is the UK’s second largest regional newspaper publisher, were due to hold a group-wide strike on 19 May.

But the one-day stoppage was called off after a legal challenge from Johnston Press head office which argued that it does not employ any journalists, saying instead that they were employed by autonomous local companies.

The NUJ balloted some 550 journalists across 50 Johnston Press chapels and 70 per cent of the 60 per cent who voted said yes to industrial action.

Chapel officials are due to meet in Leeds on 19 June to discuss holding a series of individual strike ballots at the various Johnston Press centres.

Johnston Press was for many years the most profitable regional newspaper publisher in the UK, but in recent years has been weighed down by debts accumulated during a period of rapid expansion.

Last month it revealed it was increasing its year-on-year cost-cutting programme by £5m to £15m.

The company made a pre-tax loss of £113.8m in 2009 as it wrote down the value of its assets. It made an operating profit of £71.8m on turnover of £428m. In March, when it announced these results, total debt stood at £422.1m.

A management spokesman for the Bedford Times and Citizen was not available for comment this morning.

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