Trinity Mirror Midlands journalists rebel over plan to give them individual online audience targets

Trinity Mirror journalists in the Midlands have passed motions of no confidence in management over plans to introduce individual audience targets, according to the National Union of Journalists. (Picture: Shutterstock)

The proposal emerged last week after staff were told of plans to cut 19 editorial jobs in Birmingham and six in Coventry.

After the cuts were announced, Geoffrey Robinson, MP for Coventry North West, wrote to the editor of the Coventry Telegraph saying the newspaper was "a mere shadow of itself". He also submitted an early day motion in Parliament, which has been sponsored by 12 other MPs.

The National Union of Journalists chapel in Birmingham said that members "unanimously backed a vote of no confidence on the proposal to introduce individual audience targets".

It said in a statement: “On the face of it these targets would be unworkable, counter-productive and unprecedented in the industry. The chapel welcomes the decision to move back the deadline for voluntary redundancy applications to Monday June 22. Members urge the company to use this extra time to present clear proposals to members on how these targets would work."

According to the NUJ, journalists in Coventry “believe the new targets will be a threat to journalistic quality, as easy, fluffy stories and listicles will be rewarded, rather than long-term investigative projects and stories which need time to develop and check”. They said it would lead to a emphasis on “click-bait” stories rather than “important, local issues and community stories”.

The NUJ said that the Midlands chapels “have also expressed no confidence in aspects of the redundancy process and are concerned at the lack of information about what the newsroom will look like after the proposed job cuts”.

The union said: “This has led to fears that unqualified staff will be asked to do reporting jobs. Another area of concern is ‘acting up’.

“Reporters are regularly working alone in the office and publishing directly to web. They feel they are doing an editor’s job –  with no extra pay.”

Chris Morley, Northern and Midlands organiser, said: "The proposed introduction of individual web targets for writers is a major departure from industry norms. It raises all kinds of questions about what sort of journalism will emerge and how stories are selected and covered. Our members in the Midlands are rightly uneasy with what they have so far been told about these targets, how they will be used and what effect they will have on their journalism.

"The company said it has no plans to link these targets to pay; this must remain the case. Targets by themselves imply potential sanctions, if they mean anything at all, and that needs very careful examination. We need to be given a lot more detail to determine what place, if any, individual audience targets for journalists can have in any newsroom.  This is a very unwelcome distraction at a time when members are still reeling over the proposed jobs cuts which will damage the newspapers in the Midlands.

"The management said it no longer sees its newspapers as papers of record. This is an insult to their readers, who need to be told about what is happening in their councils, health and police authorities, schools and environment. That is why, as part of the NUJ's Local News Matters campaign, we have written to the Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, calling for a short, sharp inquiry into the future of local papers. He must call the management of Trinity Mirror to account."

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