Craig McGill from digital communications company Contently Managed worked at Trinity Mirror – at the Sunday Mirror and Daily Mirror from 2000 to 2006 – and has freelanced for The Guardian.
Journalism.co.uk asked him for his comments on today’s announcement that Guardian Media Group is selling its regional news business to Trinity Mirror. His reaction is in full below:
Well, this is just comical – or it would be if it didn’t show the state of hysteria in UK press ownership and the fact that it will probably lead to a loss of jobs.
Firstly, we have Guardian Media Group looking as if it wants to go from being a ‘group’ to just looking after The Guardian because I wonder how much this sale was driven by the £89.8 million loss that GMG made last year.
Secondly, The Guardian is the very title that tells us constantly – almost as much as it goes on about The Wire in fact – that local content is what people want, it’s the future, it’s the killer app that will keep people looking for news.
If that’s the case why are they dumping all their local content creators? Or are they admitting that instead of highly paid professionals, a couple of bloggers can do the job instead? Or do they just want to be London-centric with a stringer or two elsewhere? That’s hardly inspiring in an age of devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. What should readers in those areas do? Go elsewhere?
Secondly, what makes this even more tragic is that they are being bought by Trinity Mirror. Now there’s two aspects to this: one, Trinity Mirror continually says that it has no money and is skint. However, they managed to pull together a £44 million package – including nearly £8 million in cash – that’s hardly my definition of skint. That’s a complete slap in the face to the journalists Trinity Mirror has thrown out over the years and for the miserable pay freezes, small pay rises and ridiculous cost cutting measures that the survivors have endured – all because there was a lack of money. That £8 million could have done so much more in many titles.
To add to that, Trinity Mirror has a record of poor investment in the regions – it chopped the Scottish Daily Mirror from a team of 30 to one over three years, the Daily Record and Sunday Mail titles work wonders with a small budget but are walloped by having to do more with less each year, which lead to the Scottish Sun overtaking them as the best selling daily in Scotland.
This buy smacks of a panic buy – almost as much as it was a much-needed sale for GMG. Who are the losers going to be? The obvious one is the people who have already lost their jobs – more will follow, we can be sure of that. Over time the readers will be losers too as there’s less journalistic competition bringing more stories.
And even at the Mirror’s Manchester office, there must be people wondering what’s going to happen next. After all, does Manchester need two big news hubs? Surely a building merger is on the cards, followed by ‘shared resources’ and then ‘merged resources’.