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Trinity Mirror urged to come clean about Midlands cuts

24 June 2009

Trinity Mirror bosses plan to axe eight weekly titles across the Midlands with an announcement expected in the next few days, according to internal company documents seen by the NUJ. The NUJ has called on the company to "come clean" about the plans.

Further cuts, including turning the Birmingham Mail into an overnight paper and moving production of the Post to a bi-weekly or weekly publication, are scheduled to be announced in September in a bid by the company to avoid legal requirements for longer consultations with staff and unions.

The cuts come despite the fact that the documents reveal the Mail will be profitable next year. Planned editorial cuts are expected to reduce expenditure by a further £2.5m, following cuts of £2m made last year.

One weekly title, which at one time had ten staff, including seven reporters, currently operates with just one trainee and will be closed under the current proposals. The changes would mean the roles of editor of the Post and editorial director of the weeklies would be in doubt.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, said:

"It is clear these cuts are being directed by the board. Editorial staff and managers are vehemently opposed to them. There can be no doubt former MD Steve Brown was sacked for refusing to countenance the wholesale destruction of the titles being planned.
"The company needs to come clean about these disastrous plans and the community needs to stand up for quality journalism. If Trinity Mirror shareholders are more interested in filling their pockets than providing the resources necessary to ensure the people of the Midlands are properly served by their local papers, they should step aside and let others take over the titles."

Chris Morley, the union's Northern Organiser and a former industrial correspondent at the Birmingham Mail, said:

"The plans under discussion lay bare the massive managerial incompetence that these titles have been subject to over many years, but particularly since coming under Trinity Mirror ownership.
"Canary Wharf has in turn starved the Midlands editorial operations of investment while turning the screw on unrealistic cutbacks in the face of untypical competition in the market. Just two years ago it tried to sell the assets and when it couldn't get any price decided to use the Midlands as the test bed for its multi-media 'brave new world'.
"Now it is evident that they are not going to allow this business the time and resources to turn itself around after all, and seem content to try to keep cutting it into oblivion. The NUJ will not stand idly by and let these proud titles be squeezed to death by owners that do not prize them as the important assets they are. The cities they circulate in will be appalled at the sorry prospects Trinity Mirror give them."

Tags: , trinity mirror, midlands, closure, newspapers, cuts, birmingham post and mail, birmingham, midlands weekly media