A recent post by Jon Slattery has confirmed what I have been hearing about the continuing problems at my old employers, the Sheffield Star. He reports that staff are balloting to strike next week over plans to cut yet more editorial numbers from an already overstretched newsroom.
I left the paper in 2004, and ballots were taking place then (at that time, it was over pay: strike action was avoided). Nearly seven years and two editors later, it appears that conditions have got worse. Recent stories about painful cock-ups caused by a new production system (see picture, right) have added to the frustration.
Newspapers are not fun places to be at the moment. The recession has accelerated drops in advertising revenue and circulation, with audience fragmentation and flight to online media quickening this decline. This has caught traditionally conservative newspaper publishers in a perfect storm. And journalists have borne the brunt of the problems as they struggle to meet the demands of delivering news in an increasing number of formats with fewer resources. I still believe, however, that there is a profit to be made out of a paper like The Star, and a big role for Sheffield Newspapers and its journalists in the city.
If it was taken out of the Johnson Press stable and run by people who understand the city and its people, and did not have to meet parent company shareholder demands, The Star could still adapt and thrive.
Newspapers run by people who understand their communities; now that would be localism in action.