Peter Lazenby: Picture NUJ

Peter Lazenby: Picture NUJ

Well-known Yorkshire journalist Peter Lazenby has spoken out about the ‘complete crisis’ in local newspapers as part of an in-depth look at sector which says the regional media are ‘gutting’ themselves.

The Morning Star journalist and former National Union of Journalists rep expresses his views in an analysis pice for the Media Reform Coalition titled, The problem with local media: An industry gutting itself

Lazenby, who was a Leeds journalist for 40 years, speaks fondly of his previous work but is critical of the current state of affairs noting that there were 200 journalists working across the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post when he was there – when he left there were 60.

“We used to dispatch a reporter and photographer on spec for three days to the Yorkshire Dales, or over to the east coast to talk to fisher folk and people working on the docks, just seeing what we could pick up – and the most wonderful stories used to occur.”

“The life of a regional journalist was an absolute joy, a job that I loved. It combined a profession and my political beliefs, campaigning against fascism and racism, writing about environmental issues, housing, poverty pay, home workers.”

The article also looks at the activities of the unions during this period of change that local newspapers face in part due to the to the proliferation of television channels and the dramatic growth in new media due to the rise of the internet at a time when advertising money and sales revenues have decreased substantially.

Looking back he recalls the time in 2009 when there was a four-day-a-week strike against compulsory redundancies at the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post. It lasted two months and although the redundancies went ahead, it showed the resolve of the workforce.

Lazenby was co-father of the NUJ chapel during the struggle and recalls management’s shock: “They thought we were a divided workforce but in fact the vote was 98 per cent in favour. It was possibly the biggest majority in the history of NUJ journalists voting for strike action in defence of colleagues’ jobs. We fought every redundancy and we saved some colleagues’ jobs by individual negotiations.”