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May 27, 2016updated 31 May 2016 11:53am

Journalists on former Local World weeklies in South East England face Trinity Mirror axe

By Dominic Ponsford

Former Local World newspapers published in Essex, Kent and Surrey are the latest to suffer widespread editorial cuts as a result of the company’s take-over by Trinity Mirror last year.

More than 13 jobs are expected to be lost, including a number of weekly editor roles.

The Essex Chronicle and Brentwood Gazette are to merge into one county-wide title.

And 12 existing newspaper websites are to be merged into three, each serving a single county.

The titles affected by the cuts include: the Ashford Herald, Canterbury Times, Kent & Sussex Courier, Dover Express, Folkestone Herald, Maidstone and Medway News, Sevenoaks Chronicle, Thanet Gazette, Surrey Mirror, Croydon Advertiser and Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser.

According to the NUJ a further six roles are being cut in North Wales, and ten in Merseyside, but with more jobs created.

In Birmingham, a city centre office used by reporters on the Birmingham Post is targeted for closure. Those staff will instead be based at the main Fort Dunlop site on the outskirts of the city.

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NUJ national Trinity Mirror coordinator Chris Morley said: “It is of obvious concern that Trinity Mirror’s only city centre contact point with its readers and customers in Birmingham – a city of one million people – has the axe poised over it.

“The loss of a city centre presence is unanimously opposed by the Birmingham NUJ chapel. The impression this gives to the population at large is of a company that does not care for the city and is prepared, ironically enough, to retreat behind the battlements of Fort Dunlop.

“But of even greater concern is that important roles are being targeted for the chop because they are viewed as ‘more traditional’. This is a slippery slope for the journalism being produced by Trinity Mirror and one highlighted by the NUJ just a few weeks ago to the board and shareholders at the company AGM.”

Martin Shipton, NUJ Trinity Mirror group chapel chair, said: “We deplore these latest announcements, which confirm our fear that the group is moving away from journalism that challenges the locally powerful and holds to account public bodies.

“We have been at the forefront of arguing that an increasing democratic deficit exists, where people are not informed about many vital issues that affect their everyday lives. It is bitterly ironic that at a time when the National Assembly for Wales is on course to acquire tax-levying powers, the Daily Post in North Wales has decided that it no longer needs a Welsh affairs correspondent covering the Senedd in Cardiff.

“Diminishing quality news coverage is a risky strategy that endangers the very existence of journalism that adds value. We call on Trinity Mirror’s senior management to consider very carefully the implications of what they are proposing.”

Further jobs are being cut by Trinity Mirror in South Wales where it has taken over former Local World title the South Wales Evening Post.

Ken Smith, speaking on behalf of the NUJ in Wales, said: “Quality news coverage in Wales is seriously under threat from the latest restructuring being proposed at the Daily Post and South Wales Evening Post.

“In a week where newspapers are reviewing the major Hollywood release, Money Monsters, which highlights the move away from serious journalism to infotainment, it is perhaps ironic that these Welsh newspapers are further turning their back on quality reporting.

“These cuts will further intensify the democratic deficit that exists in Welsh public life, where public bodies are neither reported nor held to account.

“The NUJ in Wales expects there will be a public and political outcry about these cuts and will be approaching all the elected representatives in the Assembly and Westminster to urgently act on this matter.

“We are also calling on the Assembly to establish a media and communications committee tasked with urgently examining and taking action to reverse the continuing decline of serious media coverage in Wales and of Wales.”

Trinity Miror said the South East Website changes were “part of Trinity Mirror’s strategy of regional hubs with hyperlocal news and information sections”.

A spokesperson said: “The businesses remain committed to producing quality print and digital news for local communities across the south east.”

The spokesperson added: “Separately, there have been some small changes in Birmingham, Liverpool and North Wales as part of ongoing work to have the right resource in place to deliver news our audiences want, when they want it, and to ensure we are continuing to operate efficiently.

“In Birmingham, four new roles are being created, with two existing roles at risk. In Liverpool, six new roles are being created, with an approximate net reduction of two. In North Wales, six new roles are being created, with an approximate net reduction of two.

“Also in Birmingham, we are proposing to close the Great Western office at the end of June. As a result of this, the three front-of-house roles are, as of today, at risk of redundancy and we are entering a period of consultation with the affected staff.”

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