Trinity Mirror paid Guardian Media Group £7.4m for its regional newspapers business on 28 March. As of 4 July Trinity had already made £2.7m profit on turnover of £18.2m out of the Manchester Evening News and some 33 weekly titles. By the end of the financial year Trinity Mirror will probably have made the entire purchase price back.
No wonder National Union of Journalists members at the Manchester Evening News are ‘baffled’ that Trinity Mirror is planning to make ten of them redundant.
Especially considering the fact that when Trinity Mirror bought the MEN it promised that there was “no redundancy programme planned”.
In Trinity’s interim results it notes that the purchase of GMG Regional Media has been “highly successful” delivering “strong revenue and profit performance”.
If anything the company seems pleasantly surprised by how well the new division has done. So why the need for the unplanned-for redundancy programme?
Trinity is already saving a shed-load of money by moving MEN Media staff from their smart city-centre offices in Manchester to vacant space in a printworks in Chadderton, Oldham, which it already owns. Just last year some 78 editorial jobs were cut at MEN Media as it closed all the weekly newspaper offices.
It does seem short-sighted to make a new wave cutbacks just as the business is getting on its feet again, by further integrating the weekly and daily newspaper editorial teams.
Here’s what the MEN Media NUJ chapel said on Friday:
“Today’s statement showing encouraging interim results from Trinity Mirror and including an acknowledgement of the great financial contribution already being made by the recently-acquired MEN Media, leaves us even more baffled and angry that we are currently in the process of shedding up to 10 more journalists’ jobs on top of the 78 axed last year.
“Over the past few years, journalists at the Manchester Evening News and weekly newspapers have seen that when business is good, management cuts our jobs, when business is bad, management cuts our jobs and then business is improving, management cuts our jobs. Different management, same philosophy.”
The reason for the latest cutbacks lies, I suspect, with the need to hit group-wide cost reduction targets, of £25m for the year to help pay down overall debt which currently stands at £308.4m.
Trinity Mirror is to be congratulated for turning the financial performance around so quickly, and to a certain extent can’t be blamed for the economic realities of being a big Plc which has funded what it sees as necessary expansion through taking on debt.
But given GMG and the Scott Trust’s long association with Manchester, and its constitutional commitment to supporting journalism, might it have sought an exit from its regionals business which would have better served its old home-town?
There must have been any number of of wealthy individuals, or companies, with strong local links to Manchester who would have been delighted with the sort of return Trinity Mirror is now enjoying from its new regionals business, been proud to own such an esteemed set of media titles and not felt the same pressure to cut costs.