'Evening papers part of fabric of our society'

Journalists at the Birmingham Mail fear Trinity Mirror could turn the paper into a morning paper as it did with sister title the Coventry Telegraph.

A motion was passed to defend evening newspapers against being printed overnight or early in the morning, which the union claims is a cost-cutting measure rather than for the benefit of readers.

It supported the rights of newspaper chapels to campaign against such moves which have swept the regional press over the past five years.

Father of Chapel at the Birmingham branch of the NUJ Ben Hurst said: "The Coventry Telegraph has already been converted into a morning paper.

"When we raised the prospect of this being repeated in Birmingham, we were told by a desperate management that doing nothing was not an option."

Hurst said that management claimed the move offered "windows of opportunity"

for purchase, but added that publishing in the morning had led to a significant drop in direct-delivery sales in Coventry."They are only keeping the rate of decline at the same level through frantic promotional drives. The Birmingham Mail often puts on thousands of sales with a good, live story.

"Evening newspapers are part of the fabric of our society and our big cities.

Forget windows of opportunity – this is about cutting costs. In Coventry, 40 van drivers were instantly sacked, saving hundreds of thousands of pounds, which needless to say went straight into the shareholders' pockets."

According to Hurst, 100 per cent of editorial staff up to the deputy editor signed a petition against the Birmingham Mail becoming a morning titles.

Sales of the Birmingham Mail have dropped significantly in recent years and continue to do so despite a £1 million relaunch in October 2005. In the last set of ABC results, the Mail was down 13.1 per cent to 72,218, which followed declines in the previous six month periods of 17.5 per cent and 11.9 per cent.

Publishers who have converted to overnight printing say that being on sale for longer helps to improve sales.

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