Newspaper publisher Johnston Press has rung the changes at two of its North East regional dailies.

John Szymanski (pictured), editor of the Shields Gazette since 2002, is to take the editor’s chair at the Sunderland Echo.

He succeeds Rob Lawson, who quit after 10 years in October on the same day the company announced that the print plant in Sunderland was closing.

Richard Ord, who has been acting editor since Lawson’s departure, will return to his role as deputy editor.

Joy Yates will add the editorship of the Shields Gazette to her current role as editor of the Hartlepool Mail.

The changes, which take effect from today, were announced to staff on Friday in an internal memo by Stephen Plews, managing director of Johnston Press’s North East business unit.

He said: “The next few months are extremely important for the business as we move into our planned period of re-launches and these appointments are key to that process.

“I know you will all give your full support to John, Richard and Joy and wish them every success.”