By Jean Morgan
The NUJ has asked the Trinity Mirror Southern management of the Croydon Advertiser for a meeting to discuss plans to send the title’s journalists into supermarkets to promote the newspaper.
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Some Advertiser journalists were shocked on Monday when they were called to meetings with Graham Mead, managing director of TMS East Surrey and Sussex Newspapers, and told they would be expected to take half a day to go on “supermarket sweeps”.
They have been told to take copies of the newspaper and target shoppers because the company “cannot afford merchandisers”, Press Gazette has learned.
Even Mead and his executives will do this, visiting Croydon’s Safeway and other supermarkets on 13 and 14 February.
The company’s Reigate journalists have also been briefed.
The Advertiser NUJ chapel, angry that its members may be used as “glorified sales reps”, has contacted NUJ head office over what it sees as the company’s rewriting of their contracts.
Deputy NUJ general secretary John Fray told Press Gazette: “It is not the job of journalists to sell or promote newspapers.
“Their job is to get stories into the newspaper so that it attracts people to buy it.”
But Mead has told Press Gazette he has had no communication from the NUJ and, in any case, the company does not recognise the NUJ in Croydon, though he is happy to talk to any member of staff about the idea.
He explained the staff would be asked to do this for one half day a year. They would be expected to sell the newspaper, asking shoppers to take a copy at full price, he confirmed, adding: “I see absolutely nothing wrong with that whatsoever.”
The intention is two-fold, Mead said. “We have a duty as a local newspaper to be close to our community and I want everybody to have a better understanding of the market.
“One of the most effective ways to do that is to have them out and about, talking to people.”
He hopes the sweeps will have a positive effect on sales and give staff a better understanding of how the paper is received in the community.