Big city blues: sales slide costs Borrell his job

By Dominic Ponsford

Declining sales figures across the regional press claimed a high
profile victim this week as Birmingham Evening Mail editor Roger
Borrell was made redundant by Trinity Mirror.

He left the paper on Friday after three and a half years – a day
after six-month regional ABC figures showed the Mail 10.5 per cent down
year-on-year.

Liverpool Echo editor Mark Dickinson is to move to
the new role of editorial director for the Midlands whereas Borrell’s
title had been editor-in-chief for the region.

Borrell, 50, was previously editor of the Lancashire Evening Post and deputy editor of Newcastle’s Evening Chronicle.

One
source said Trinity Mirror editors had reacted with “complete
bafflement” and that “most people have reached the conclusion that it’s
another cost-cutting exercise”.

Evening Mail circulation has
dropped dramatically in recent years from 130,405 in 2000 to 96,143 in
2004 – partly due to a reduction in bulk-distributed copies.

According
to one insider, sales have been in decline for 30 years: “It’s been a
continual downward trajectory and nothing that had happened in recent
times has had any influence on that. The feeling among journalists is
there’s been a lack of investment in newspaper sales and the continual
cost-cutting in editorial has had an impact on sales.”

The number
of journalists is understood to have declined from 100 to around 80 in
three years in the wake of visits from consultancy teams. The rival
Wolverhampton-based Express and Star , is thought to have about 180.

Birmingham
poses particular newspaper sales problems because of the increasing
ethnic minority population. Borrell spent much of his time as editor
making efforts to engage these groups and he increased the number of
ethnic journalists from one to seven.

In February 2003, Trinity
Mirror spent a claimed £1m on a relaunch of the Evening Mail
specifically aimed at attracting more ethnic minority readers. New
columnists were recruited, six new sections launched and the paper was
given a completely new look following “intensive” reader research.

A
spokesman for the Post and Mail NUJ chapel said: “The chapel wants to
see decent investment in the Post and Mail titles. We want to see an
end to the search for increased savings from cutting jobs and we want
to see a successful newspaper which people want to buy because it’s
good quality and confident.”

Borrell’s departure follows the
replacement in November of Trinity Mirror Midlands managing director
Alistair Nee with John Bills who is currently carrying out a “strategic
review”.

Dickinson, 54, has been editor of the Echo in Liverpool since 2000 and regional editorin- chief for the North West since 2003.

He
said: “Somewhere along the line some big calls have to be made in the
Midlands – it’s an exciting time to be in regional newspapers.

Hopefully
I’ve got a track record for improving newspapers, getting the best out
of teams, supporting talent and bringing young talent through and
creating an atmosphere of creativity, high performance and
determination to succeed.”

He said: “I’m moving down there in a
positive frame of mind and with lots of ambition for the Midlands. If I
didn’t believe I could make a difference I wouldn’t have accepted the
job.”

Trinity Mirror regionals editorial director Neil Benson is
to take over special responsibility for editorial development in the
North West, including “leadership of a major newsroom project”.


Another high-profile redundancy was announced on Wednesday with news
that editorial director, magazines, Phil Hall was to leave the head
office magazines unit.

The former News of the World editor joined
Trinity Mirror two years ago as editorial development director. He was
involved in the launch of national supplements including We Love Telly!
, Celebs on Sunday and Take It Easy. He was also in charge of the Daily
Mirror ‘s 3am magazine which was axed after a year. Hall is currently
in consultation with the company.

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