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June 16, 2015

Ten MPs warn Birmingham Mail being ‘wound down’ by ‘alarming’ Trinity Mirror cuts

By Dominic Ponsford

Ten Birmingham MPs have called for a meeting with Trinity Mirror to protest against the Birmingham Post and Mail titles being “wound down”.

The publisher is currently consulting on plans to cut 19 journalism jobs from its Birmingham titles and a further six in Coventry. The move will leave 46 journalists in Birmingham – producing titles including the Birmingham Mail, Birmingham Post and Sunday Mercury – and 22 in Coventry.

Last week MPs in Coventry were to due to meet the editor of the Coventry Telegraph.

In joint letter to Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox, the Birmingham MPs said: "As the ten Members of Parliament representing Birmingham, we were alarmed to hear that the Birmingham Post and Mail is planning 19 editorial redundancies – more than a quarter of its journalists.

"The admission from Trinity Mirror that the Birmingham Post and Mail cannot 'dutifully report everything which happens on our patch' is also very alarming. What does this mean for coverage of the City Council, political affairs, the education system, criminal activity, the health service and courts? Are you going to be able to hold figures in authority to account?

"Does it mean that only stories which interest the public will be appearing, rather than those in the public interest?

"We are worried that Birmingham brands, of which so many Brummies are proud, are being wound down, the decline hastened as a result of under investment and poor management from the parent company in London. We find it unbelievable that an established news organisation covering Britain's second largest city at a time of economic growth is failing to make a profit. And that Birmingham is being talked of as being the first major city to lose its daily newspaper? If not now then quite possibly in the not too distant future.

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"We understand the local news industry has faced challenges, competition from the internet and new media but have to ask why other cities are maintaining larger news organisations.

“Staff understood that Trinity Mirror was going to nurture and grow the online and mobile side of the publication, while maintaining its print edition. But now it appears that the company is demanding immediate results, and that the recent rapid growth in online circulation is not enough. How do you plan to maintain that readership without the journalists to generate the unique local stories to attract them?

"Is it the case that the cost of the recent phone hacking court action has prompted the large-scale redundancies which we are now seeing? That the people of Birmingham, and Trinity Mirror's customers and clients here are paying the price for decisions made in a national newsroom a decade ago?

"We wish to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss this issue further and would ask that no irrevocable steps are taken in the meantime."

Members of the National Union of Journalists working at Trinity Mirror Midlands this week passed a motion of no confidence protesting against plans to impose personal audience growth targets on editorial staff.

The Birmingham Mail is one of the fastest-declining print newspapers in the country, with sales down 20.5 per cent year on year in 2014 to 30,597, according to ABC. In May it averaged 26,936. But it also has one of the fastest-growing websites – with daily ‘unique browsers’ up 112 per cent to 145,840.

Print sales of the Coventry Telegraph fell 14.4 per cent in 2014 to 21,773 and daily website browsers rose 60.5 per cent to 43,420, according to ABC.

A Trinity Mirror spokesperson said: "The proposed restructure of our newsrooms in Coventry and Birmingham is essential to continue the progress we have already made in becoming truly digitally focussed and help us revitalise our print products. The proposals are quite significant in the change in structure we need to equip ourselves as a flexible, multi-skilled newsroom of the future. The decision taken to implement these proposals has not been taken lightly, but it is necessary for us to adapt to commercial challenges and provide a structure that gives longer term sustainability of the business. We remain committed to daily print publishing and we are maintaining our print portfolio, including revitalising the Birmingham Mail and Coventry Telegraph in the coming months to appeal to a wider audience.”

Full list of Birmingham MPs signing the protest letter to Trinity Mirror (source: NUJ):

  • Jack Dromey,  Member of Parliament for Birmingham Erdington
  • Roger Godsiff,  Member of Parliament for Birmingham Hall Green
  • Shabana Mahmood, Member of Parliament for Birmingham Ladywood
  • Liam Byrne, Member of Parliament for Birmingham Hodge Hill
  • Steve McCabe, Member of Parliament for Birmingham Selly Oak
  • Jess Phillips, Member of Parliament for Birmingham Yardley
  • Gisela Stuart, Member of parliament for Birmingham Edgbaston
  • Khalid Mahmood, Member of Parliament for Birmingham Perry Barr
  • Richard Burden, Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfields
  • Andrew Mitchell, Member of Parliament for Sutton Coldfield.

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