MEN Media says compulsory redundancies 'unavoidable'

The Guardian Media Group has warned that compulsory redundancies cannot be ruled out among the 150 staff to go at MEN Media, publisher of the Manchester Evening News.

In a management statement after Press Gazette broke the story this morning, the company also said it would be reducing the number of free copies given away by the Manchester Evening News, which has pioneered a free distribution in the city centre while maintaining paid-for circulation in other parts of Manchester.

Press Gazette understands the MEN will significantly cut its free distribution. Profits for GMG Regional Media – encompassing MEN Media and GMG’s titles in Surrey and Berkshire – are expected to show a fall of about 85 per cent in the year to the end of March 2009.

Staff were told in briefings throughout the day that 78 journalists’ posts across 23 titles are being made redundant.

The company said: “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 summarised its changes planned for the business as follows:

  • 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.

GMG Regional Media chief executive Mark Dodson 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.”

• Read our original story from this morning – and the NUJ reaction

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