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June 29, 2018updated 02 Jul 2018 10:39am

Manchester Evening News and Huddersfield Examiner latest to face redundancies as Reach continues separation of print and digital operations

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Manchester Evening News and Huddersfield Daily Examiner newsrooms are the latest to face redundancies amid parent company Reach’s continuing separation of its print and digital operations.

The publisher’s print publishing in the north east will be consolidated into a single regional unit as it looks to concentrate on accelerating digital audience growth.

The titles are moving to the “Live” model trialled by Birmingham Live last year, although Reach confirmed in March that the MEN would keep its identity online.

Union representatives said the cuts at Huddersfield appeared to be “particularly serious” with a 20 per cent reduction in reporting capacity, and that they will be discussing the proposals with management “robustly”.

At the MEN, Press Gazette understands around nine roles are at risk, including three of five photographers. Other roles at risk include reporters, print managers, and a community content curator.

There will be a “marginal increase” in jobs at the MEN under the changes, according to Reach (formerly Trinity Mirror).

Staff were told of the plans yesterday afternoon and the National Union of Journalists has said it is trying to confirm the number of roles at risk ahead of a members’ meeting next week.

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Reach told Press Gazette “around seven” roles would be lost in Huddersfield.

Vacant roles at the MEN – which Press Gazette understands include new jobs being created and others that have been vacant for some time already – comprise football writers, video journalists, “story editors – print”, “search and evergreen reporters”, a commercial editor and a trends analyst.

A Reach spokesperson said: “It’s a restructure to accelerate our digital audience growth and consolidate our print publishing into a single regional unit. This is in keeping with the Live newsroom model we’ve implemented elsewhere in Reach.

“The restructure will create a number of new roles and will lead to a marginal increase in staffing levels in Manchester, and a reduction of around seven roles in Huddersfield.

“We’re consulting with teams about alternative roles and will be providing a full programme of training and support.”

At least 98 roles have already been put at risk in Reach’s regional newsrooms since February, as the company rolls out a Live newsroom model trialled in Birmingham last year.

The publisher previously said the creation of Birmingham Live in September to focus solely on digital content, away from the Birmingham Mail newspaper’s editorial team, has increased audience numbers.

It is now continuing the separation of print and digital operations at many of its other newsrooms across the UK, as up to 49 “majority print related” roles were put at risk in February, and a further 49 just a month later.

Chris Morley, NUJ northern and midlands senior organiser, said today: “Once again our members are literally in the ‘firing line’ with the continued roll out of Reach’s plan to separate digital and print operations.

“The effect is particularly serious at Huddersfield given the existing team is so small after years of the company continually whittling away at newsroom staffing levels.

“What seems strange is that the company expects Huddersfield to be covered with a 20 per cent reduction in reporting capacity – and now also to cover Leeds too in the Live experiment there.

“I am concerned at the strains this will undoubtedly put on remaining staff and the union is clear that if anyone is to go it must be through voluntary means. We will be engaging robustly with management over this.”

A statement from the MEN chapel today said staff were “steadfastly opposed” to the possibility of compulsory redundancies.

“Our priority is to protect those who are directly affected by these proposals,” the chapel said.

“Furthermore, we will be seeking to ensure that members are in no way negatively affected by the process of separating print and digital operations.”

The voluntary redundancy period will end on 9 July, staff were told.

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