'Trinity has a problem with departing editors'

Another Trinity Mirror editor who quit the company recently is Geoff Martin, now editing the Hampstead and Highgate Express after 12 years at the daily Belfast News Letter, writes Jean Morgan.

Currently working for Archant, he believes Trinity Mirror has a problem with departing editors throughout the country.

“Wouldn’t you think that somebody at Trinity Mirror would look round at the talent in the regional division that’s haemorrhaged, like Neil Fowler [ex-Western Mail] and Alison Hastings [ex-Evening Chronicle, Newcastle] and some very, very good weekly newspaper editors. How can any organisation afford to lose those people?

“It must be disturbing. Is no one asking the question ‘why?’ One of the things that I found slightly strange is that no one in Trinity Mirror said ‘Why?’ [when he left].”

But while Martin has a lot of time for Neil Wallis, with whom he spent time when the pair were looking at circulation-building in Northern Ireland for The People, he does not share the view that Wallis was short of resources.

“Any of Trinity Mirror’s regional editors could have looked at the national titles and saved resources. There’s plenty 0f fat there, whatever they say,” maintained Martin. “When you look at the resources that some regional newspapers are produced on – there was a feeling that the regionals had been targeted [for cost cutting] and no one really had the courage or the strength to look at the same kind of operation as far as the dailies were concerned. Daily newspaper editors are very strong, formidable people. They have to be. But there was a feeling that the nationals were untouchable and that it was the regional papers, already cut back pretty finely, that were the target for all the cost-cutting that had to be done. There was a certain degree of resentment about that.”

Martin is no fan of the way Trinity Mirror’s Biggest to Best strategy for its regional papers, thought by many of its journalists to be a cover for cost-cutting, has been implemented.

He said: “The problem as I saw it with Biggest to Best is that it really needed a start date and a finish date. I think if those things had been in place, then everybody could have bought into it, recognised what had to be done and recognised the time-frame.

“The whole Biggest to Best thing would have been entered into much more enthusiastically by editors and senior editorial people.

“Journalists appreciate honesty. They are not foolish people and everybody has been through cost-cutting over the years. It’s a question of how you get from A to B. Biggest to Best was just spectacularly circuitous and it had a deadening effect.”

Jean Morgan

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