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March 6, 2013

Editor of fifth best-performing weekly newspaper in the UK facing axe by Johnston Press

By Dominic Ponsford

Johnston Press is looking to axe one of the most successful regional newspaper editors in the country.

Last week the Whitby Gazette in North Yorkshire was the fifth best-performing fully paid-for local weekly newspaper in the UK – with print sales growing 2.1 per cent to 9,540. This was despite the fact that the cover price increased from 55p to 90p in that period.
The news of the sales rise coincided with editor Jon Stokoe being being told his role was being put at risk of redundancy.
Stokoe is now understood to be on 'gardening leave' and the Whitby paper is being run by Scarborough News editor Ed Asquith.
Stokoe has been editor for two years and was acting editor for 18 months before that.
It is proposed that Asquith will edit the Whitby title on an ongoing basis as part of a group editor role which also incudes the Malton and Pickering Mercury and the Filey Mercury.
Johnston Press declined to comment and said that consultation was ongoing.
The Scarborough News went from daily to weekly last year and posted a sales figure of 14,806 – down from its launch weekly ABC of 16,736. As a daily it was selling just under 10,000 copies a day in the first half of 2012.
Johnston Press is also proposing to close the Whitby Gazette's offices and move to smaller premises.
Only 13 out of 373 paid-for local weekly newspapers increased sales in the second half of 2012 according to ABC.
The Scarborough News went from daily to weekly last year and posted a sales figure of 14,806, down from its launch weekly ABC of 16,736. As a daily it was selling just under 10,000 copies a day in the first half of 2012.
The Whitby Gazette was the biggest fully paid-for weekly title to increase print sales in the second half of 2012.
The only others to do so were the Burnham & Higbridge Weekly News (up 15.6 per cent to 2,551), the Gainsborough Standard (up 4.1 per cent to 3,676), the North Belfast News (up 4.1 per cent to 4,371) and the Gravesend & Dartford Messenger (up 2.2 per cent to 5,300).
Johnston Press is the fourth biggest regional newspaper publisher in the UK (ranked by total circulation) with 215 titles. It has been engaged in a rolling programme of cost-cuts as part of chief executive Ashley Highfield's eight-year-plan announced last year to pay back £350m of debt.

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