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March 10, 2009

Manchester Evening News to cut 78 journalists’ jobs

By Jon Slattery

MEN Media, publisher of the Manchester Evening News and related weeklies, has told staff that 150 jobs are to go and all weekly editorial offices will be closed.

Staff on the newspapers, part of the Guardian Media Group, were told of the job cuts in a series of briefings with management this morning.

The number of jobs going in editorial is 78. According to the National Union of Journalists, half of the journalism job cuts will come from the MEN itself.

As a result, the MEN editorial team will shrink from 90 to about 50.

MEN Media publishes 23 newspapers including the Manchester Evening News.

Although none of the titles will close, production of the MEN’s sister weeklies will be switched to Greater Manchester at Scott Place.

The office closures will be in Accrington, Ashton, Macclesfield, Oldham, Rochdale, Rossendale, Salford and Wilmslow.

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Although an office will be kept open in Stockport it will not be used by editorial staff.

Jenny Lennox, the NUJ’s Manchester-based assistant northern organiser, said staff were shocked by the scale of the redundancies.

“There are 39 out of 90 at the Manchester Evening News, in percentage terms I think that is the biggest we’ve had in the regional press, it’s nearly 50 per cent.

“In Greater Manchester you can only pick up a Guardian Media newspaper. This is an attack on local journalism and local democracy.”

She added: “Obviously the priority seems to be to keep The Guardian and The Observer going but they are endangering the cash cow that keeps them going.

“If you destroy the core of local papers you won’t have anything to keep The Guardian going.”

Lennox added that it was not yet clear how the centralisation of the weekly papers would work.

She said some staff were concerned that it was the local papers taking all the pain and had noted that Channel M, MEN’s local TV channel was not included in the latest round of cuts.

A joint statement issued by MEN mother of chapel Judy Gordon and weeklies division joint union representatives Joe Slade and Bethan Dorsett said: “There is some hard talking to do now.

“We anticipate real, practical difficulties producing our weekly newspapers alongside the MEN. We fear for local democracy and for the damage to regional journalism.

“We are also completely opposed to compulsory redundancies and will not tolerate the sacking of any journalist. Management needs to understand that.

“They need to talk to us quickly and constructively about how we can avoid compulsory job losses. If they don’t, we are in for a torrid time.”

Press Gazette understands that GMG‘s regional newspaper division is expected to show an 85 per cent drop in profits for the 2008/9 financial year.

The papers no longer act as a cash cow to support The Guardian and The Observer because they are suffering from the structural changes in the media and the recession.

It is thought that Channel M will be subject to a review in the future.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “Journalists in Manchester have been stunned by this announcement which runs directly against the Living Our Values campaign and the liberal values of the Scott Trust.

“These cuts show a total contempt for readers, advertisers, and the people left behind to do more work with no resources.

“The union will support our members in Manchester to resists these cuts in any way we can.

“I’m confident that Guardian readers will not sit idly by while the management ride roughshod over the company’s traditions.”

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