Following the news that 150 jobs – 78 of those journalists’ – will be cut in GMG Regional Media, this statement has been released from the group:
“MEN Media, publisher of the Manchester Evening News and weekly titles across Greater Manchester, has today briefed staff on a range of proposed changes to the business.
“The local and regional press is facing the worst conditions in living memory as the economic downturn exacerbates and accelerates longer-term structural changes in the behaviour of advertisers and readers.
“The viability of local and regional titles is under threat due to steeply falling revenues that we do not expect to return to previous levels even when economic conditions improve. Publishers therefore need to find a sustainable new model if they are to survive.
“The major changes announced at MEN Media today are designed to protect the business and its journalism for the future through a new model with significantly lower fixed costs.
“By far the largest cost within the business is salaries, and while we have examined every option short of job losses, it has become clear that it is impossible to bring stability to MEN Media without substantially reducing the number of people we employ. We expect approximately 150 positions to be made redundant across MEN Media.
“While we will seek volunteers for redundancy wherever possible, we anticipate that compulsory redundancies will be unavoidable. Those people affected will be offered significantly enhanced severance terms.
“MEN Media has reviewed all aspects of its business. In addition to salaries, we have targeted various other costs and looked at how we can
improve in areas such as advertising sales, working practices and editorial systems.
“The proposed changes announced today are summarised below:
- Approximately 150 positions across all functions and disciplines to be made redundant within MEN Media. This includes 78 journalists across 23 titles.
- One consolidated editorial team for the MEN and weeklies at Scott Place in Manchester, working across MEN Media’s various titles and websites.
- All branch offices apart from Stockport will be closed in the coming months. Offices in Accrington, Ashton, Macclesfield, Oldham, Rochdale, Rossendale, Salford and Wilmslow will be closed.
- Reporters will continue to work their patches, but no longer from a local office. There will be increased remote working to support this.
- Investment in a new editorial system common to all titles, and training for all users. The new system has improved web and multimedia capabilities, and will enable journalists to work across MEN Media’s different outlets.
- New layout and design for weekly titles.
- Central section of common pages for the weeklies, drawn from the MEN’s leisure/entertainment content.
- Greater sharing of content between the MEN and weekly titles.
- A new house agreement to cover the new editorial department.
- A revised pay schedule for journalists based on the current weeklies pay schedule. Journalists who are paid in excess of the schedule will have their pay ring-fenced and protected.
- Fewer free copies of the MEN and weekly titles distributed.
- Reduced pagination of the MEN.
- Revamped advertising sales operation with greater focus on growing new business and selling multimedia solutions.
- Better targeted advertising sales strategies, with improved use of customer data.”
Mark Dodson, chief executive of GMG Regional Media (parent company of MEN Media), said:
“MEN Media’s role is to produce great journalism for our readers, users and viewers in Greater Manchester. If we want to continue to be able to do this, we need to find a new, sustainable, lower-cost business model to support it. The economic viability of local and regional newspapers is under very real and imminent threat.
“The decision about job losses has been a very difficult one to make, and I deeply regret that it has been necessary. Nonetheless, I do believe this is the right decision for MEN Media’s future and for the majority of staff who will remain with the company.
“There is a successful future for local and regional journalism in the commercial sector, but we need to protect our businesses now to give ourselves the best chance of reaching it.
“This is a worrying time for everyone working in the local and regional press. Some argue that our industry has no future. I think this is completely wrong – people still want local and regional journalism, and advertisers want to reach those people.”