27th April 2017

NUJ criticises Newsquest

Union reprimands regional publisher over free content scheme.


The NUJ has criticised a scheme which offers cash incentives for publishing user-generated content.

Regional publisher Newsquest has offered £9,000 in prizes to its centres which publish the largest amount of free copy and photographs taken by readers.

The competition, which was outlined in a message to Newsquest staff from chief executive Henry Faure Walker, will involve a top prize of £4,000, with a league table of newspapers and websites being used to keep track of results, and awards also given for the most-shared and fastest-growing local news brands on Facebook.

It has been heavily criticised by the National Union of Journalists, but the company said newspapers have always published UGC and branded the union “out of touch.”

Chris Morley, NUJ Newsquest group coordinator, said: “Our members are aghast at this plan to pit colleagues against each other in a race to the bottom to fill pages and websites with material whose only criteria for publication seems to be that it is free. There is not one mention of the importance of quality or making sure content is appropriate and suitable. It’s only about filling space as cheaply as possible.

"The fact that the chief executive has personally put his name to this bizarre scheme could not illustrate more what is wrong with this company. A chief executive earning more than a million a year with huge bonuses being carried on the back of newspapers and websites filled with reader's material beggars belief.

“Henry Faure Walker claims in his memo to staff that 'professional journalism is the bedrock of our business'. But this is a perfect example of the company appearing to do all it can to undermine its journalists in the hope of putting them out of work. Members are appalled at this shabby scheme and want nothing to do with it. In fact one member said he would wear it as a badge of pride if his centre was bottom in the free copy league table.”

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