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Trinity Mirror signals demise of print as it closes seven newspapers in the south

14 November 2014

Seven Trinity Mirror newspapers in the south, including the Harrow Observer, Reading Post and Surrey Herald are to close next month.

Approximately 50 editorial and non-editorial jobs will go as TM moves from print to new digital operations.

The company announced the closure of the Harrow Observer, the closure of its Hammersmith office and a new editorial structure for remaining West London titles. TM said its "radical new structure" in West London will focus on driving more traffic to the getwestlondon website.  There will be at least five editorial job losses.

The Buckinghamshire Advertiser and Buckinghamshire Examiner are unaffected.

In its statement, TM said its presence in Berkshire was to be digital-only "focusing entirely on developing and growing the digital business around the getreading.co.uk website". The Reading Post, Wokingham and Bracknell Times are to close.

Also to close are the Surrey Herald, Surrey Times and Woking Informer, with 12 editorial jobs to go.

Simon Edgley, managing director of Trinity Mirror Southern, said: “Decisions that impact our staff are never easy to make but they are absolutely necessary if we are to continue our transformation into a modern multiplatform publishing operation, with the flexibility and agility to invest and grow our news brands.”

Ian Proctor, FoC of West London and Bucks, said:

"This is a sickening blow for west London editorial employees. It is the second round of redundancies faced by them this year, amid more optimist overtones from Canary Wharf. Questions remain about how the reporting team that stays will be able to cover as many as eight London boroughs when the skeleton crew is stretched as it is.
"Only this week the Harrow Observer, which can trace its roots back to 1855, was being held up in the council chamber for its coverage of the opposition to local government cuts. Supporters on social media are already mourning the loss of a respected local newspaper."

Martin Shipton, chair of the Trinity Mirror NUJ group chapel, said:

"This is a watershed moment for the regional newspaper industry. Trinity Mirror is shutting down well-established titles and replacing them with an online news presence unattached to newspapers.
"So far there is little evidence that an operation of this kind can generate the revenues needed to sustain a workforce of sufficient size to provide a decent news service. The speed at which this transition is taking place is very worrying. It seems the remaining journalists will be used as guinea pigs for an as yet unproven business model. There are good grounds to fear for the future of the sector."

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:

"This announcement is a huge shock for everyone affected. Trinity Mirror must have been working on these proposals for some time, but breathed no word, not even when meeting with the government minister on the future of the sector just last week.
"Now they want to push these closures through at top speed before the minimum consultation period has expired. Even on day one, mistakes and holes are appearing in their proposals; there needs to be proper time for meaningful consultation with the workforce and readers able to have their say.
"These announcements back up the urgent need for government intervention to stop the loss of distinct, local titles with a job to do in serving their communities and the democratic interest. Journalists are not opposed to change but they are determined to stand up for local news when it comes to quality, localness and proper resourcing."

Chris Morley, Trinity Mirror NUJ group chapel officer, said:

“This is Trinity Mirror appearing to cross the Rubicon out of print. The scale of job cuts is catastrophic and one wonders where the quality journalism will come from when so many journalists are expected to sacrifice their jobs. This announcement will send shivers down the spine of journalists throughout the group and beyond because we are still nowhere near a position where digital revenue by itself can sustain an infrastructure of quality journalism.”

The union has written to culture and digital economy minister, Ed Vaizey, calling for a short, sharp inquiry into the future of local newspapers.

The call followed a summit at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS),  on 6 November, which included representatives from newspaper groups, industry experts and organisations and NUJ reps. The meeting, chaired by Mr Vaizey and John McDonnell, secretary of the NUJ Parliamentary Group, was also attended by John Whittingdale, chair of the DCMS select committee, Lord Best, chair of the Lords Communications Committee, and Helen Goodman MP, Labour media shadow minister. Neil Benson, editorial director of Trinity Mirror Regionals, was at the event.

Tags: , local newspapers, trinity mirror, job cuts, Reading Post, Harrow Observer