The Midlands News Association (MNA) has announced plans to cut 90 jobs, including 14 in editorial due to financial pressures brought by the Covid-19 crisis.
The publisher of the Express & Star, Britain’s biggest-selling local title, has already furloughed half of its current staff and is seeking staff from the group to volunteer for redundancy by May 26.
The media group reaches one million people every week in the Black Country and Shropshire through its titles which include the daily Shropshire Star.
The plans are most likely to impact the free titles; the MNA said it is looking to focus on its core titles after the pandemic had ‘severely affected’ advertising revenue. According to the NUJ, the cuts would affect 20 per cent of the workforce with 90 job cuts across the business: 45 in advertising, 15 in production and operations, 14 in editorial, seven in transport, six in circulation and three in finance.
In March, the publisher suspended circulation of its free weekly newspapers – the Chronicle and Journal series – and says it is ‘consulting with staff as it reviews its portfolio of free publications’.
The MNA’s print managing director, Graeme Clifford said: “The review of our portfolio could, regrettably, lead to redundancies as we look to secure a sustainable future for the company in these unprecedented circumstances.
“Our priority is to support members of staff whose roles are potentially affected by the changes and, while we are in consultation, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this time.
“In the meantime, we will continue to focus on our core titles, including the Express & Star and Shropshire Star, to ensure that we continue to serve our loyal readers and advertisers both in print and online.”
However, the NUJ has warned if the proposed plans are implemented against the free weeklies, it would devastate the local news landscape in the Black Country.
Chris Morley, NUJ northern and midlands senior organiser, said: “It is deeply troubling that Midland News Association is looking to shed almost a quarter of its entire staff, including a significant number of its already extremely hard-pressed editorial department.
“It is the least worst option that the company is seeking to achieve such big reductions by voluntary means. But the magnitude of the cuts is such that this needs to be done over a longer time frame and with greater consultation to arrive at the best possible outcome for the business to survive after the Covid-19 crisis has passed.”
Morley added, “What we do know is that communities throughout the Black Country and Shropshire face having less local news as edition structures are condensed and weekly titles have fewer journalists with local knowledge working on them.”
Tindle Newspapers extends furlough leave for staff
The independent publisher Tindle Newspapers has extended the furlough of 170 staff from May 31 until the end of June after the CEO warned of restructuring in the future.
The publisher of Wales’ biggest-selling weekly Cambrian News placed 60 per cent of its staff on the government job retention scheme at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to HTFP, the Tindle’s CEO Danny Cammiade said “bigger challenges are to come and we may not be structured in the future as we were pre-COVID 19”.