30 August 2014

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Award-winning reporter under threat in job cuts plan

An award-winning political journalist is among those facing the axe as part of the current round of job cuts at Trinity Mirror, HTFP can reveal.

Les Reid, left, political correspondent and columnist for the Coventry Telegraph, is the current Midlands Journalist of the Year and Daily News Reporter of the Year.

Yet he is among six members of the paper’s editorial staff facing redundancy as part of wider cutbacks at the regional publisher, which is axing 92 posts across its regional titles.

HTFP understands two feature writers, a sports reporter, a reporter from one of the paper’s associated weeklies, and a member of the production team are also facing the axe in Coventry.

Les’s plight is now set to become a political story in itself, with Coventry South MP Jim Cunningham taking up the issue in a Commons early day motion, with the support of fellow city MP Geoffrey Robinson.

Mr Cunningham has also requested a meeting with Coventry Telegraph editor Alun Thorne about the proposed cutbacks.

He told HTFP:  “We are concerned that more and more is being taken away from local journalism – and at the end of the day we may lose local newspapers altogether.

“In particular, to be cutting Les Reid’s post seems very unusual. He has won awards for his work and all other newspapers are keeping their political correspondents. We cannot understand it at all.”

Mr Cunningham’s EDM says the proposal “remove a long-standing tradition of political journalism in Coventry by making the post of political correspondent redundant whilst Trinity Mirror titles in other major cities would retain their political specialist.”

Leader of Coventry City Council John Mutton and opposition leader Kevin Foster have both also vowed to write to Trinity Mirror bosses in support of Les.

As well as taking home two gongs at the Midland Media Awards last year, Les also won Newspaper Reporter of the Year for the Midlands region at the 2009 Birmingham Press Club Awards and has worked on a number of high-profile investigations.

Most recently, this included an investigation into the aggressive tactics used by bailiffs, which helped influence a change in government policy to govern their behaviour announced last month.

Les's investigation into bailiffs, which helped influence a change in government policy

Chris Morley, the NUJ’s Northern and Midlands organiser, told HTFP he was concerned about the scale of the job losses, which make up almost a quarter of the 25-strong Coventry team.

“As the EDM states, this many people going from what is a relatively small team is going to impact on coverage,” he said.

“All of the jobs are important, but the role of political correspondent in particular is a very high-profile one. I have grave concerns about how a city the size of Coventry, and the wider Warwickshire area, will have its political issues aired to the wider public without a dedicated correspondent.”

Chris added that NUJ chapels across the country were currently discussing balloting on strike action.

Mr Cunningham’s EDM also expresses fears that the proposals by Trinity Mirror would over-stretch staff, warning that the quality of local journalism may suffer and urging the government to “protect and encourage” local journalism.

It can be read in full on the Parliamentary website here.

Trinity Mirror announced last month that it was axing 92 posts at its regional titles at the same time as creating 52 new roles across its national and regional divisions, as part of a move toward more content sharing across its regional and national titles.

It will mean a new shared content unit based in Liverpool will be created, producing feature pages that can be used across similar regional titles, covering subjects such as health, travel, fashion, food, entertainment and reviews.

There will also be closer working between the national and regional titles, with Daily Mirror reporters embedded in regional newsrooms and content being shared across all of Trinity Mirror’s newspapers and digital platforms.

A Trinity Mirror spokesman said: “We’re currently in consultation with our staff and their representatives and we hope to achieve any redundancies by voluntary means as well as redeploying staff, where possible, to newly-created roles under the new publishing operation.”

12 Comments

  1. Curious

    Quality counts… for nothing at TM.

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  2. The Daily Mess

    Sorry to hear this. A real shame and bizarre decision – the Telegraph will be the worse for it

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  3. Scribbler

    THEY. DON’T. CARE. It’s all about the bottom line and saving as much money as possible. They don’t care how they do it and how the product will suffer, just as long as they are seen to be “trimming the fat”. We journalists are merely seen as a waste of money… why pay them when you can garner “user-generated content”?

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  4. Covtelreader

    As a reader of the cov tel, this reporter has been a real asset. It’s baffling.

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  5. Jon, midlands

    Simply the best journalist in the Midlands. Astonishing if let go.

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  6. Former Journo

    As good as Les may be, it seems unfair to single out an individual as part of some campaign by a local MP to save his job. I bet all the others at risk feel a bit left out.

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  7. Capt Starlight

    TM don’t care. He’s just another number/piece on their chessboard and a “unit” cut from head office accounts.

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  8. J Dale

    I think you’ll find six are at risk of redundancy and two are likely to end up going.

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  9. Nick

    It doesn’t actually say the political reporter job is going. If he’s such a valuable asset he’ll be fine. I agree that singling someone out is a bit of an inappropriate way to make a headline. I feel worse for those who really are under threat.

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  10. John, Coventry

    It is because of stupid decisions like this that regional journalism is dying. Too many people in high positions who have a warped idea of what journalism should be, perhaps?

    There are so many talented people at the Coventry Telegraph, the paper has a rich history. However, I am mortified at decision to get rid of Les, clearly not a decision made for the good of the paper. His journalism is challenging, informative and obviously in the public interest – everything you would want from a journalist, surely. As a former local and national hack, I rate Les’ work.

    In my opinion, a very irresponsible decision – not only for the business, but the people of Coventry.

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  11. Golam Murtaza

    Senior managers don’t give a damn about journalism awards. My own paper won a regional award a few years back. A few months after we received it the management got rid of a quarter of our reporting staff.

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  12. Doctor Price, Llantrisant

    It wouldn’t be so bad if these boardroom beancounters would stop awarding themselves grossly obscene bonuses every time there’s a whiff of redundancies. The ghost of Sly Bailey lives! I’ve stopped buying our local weekly; frankly, it’s just not worth 72p. Time was when an editor and a small staff of journalists would produce the paper; now the editor has gone, and a total of two journalists are simply running ragged attempting to cover the area. Serious coverage has gone out of the window. Much more worrying is the fact that, in our music organisation, NO-ONE bothers to buy the paper. The internet is the new medium, written by knowledgable correspondents and edited by me (and I have a considerable pedigree in journalism.) The internet reports true information, not like the inaccurate local rag – and I blame inept and clueless executives for letting the print industry get into this hopeless situation.

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