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Newsrooms hit by phone line fire chaos

Newsrooms in the Manchester area have been coping without telephones and e-mail after a fire in Manchester city centre cut 130,000 phone lines.

A blaze in the early hours of Monday morning damaged cables which form part of the phone network which feeds regional exchanges in areas such as Salford and Stockport.

The Manchester Evening News was unaffected by the problem – although customers and readers may not have been able to make contact due to faults in their own area.

But contingency plans were put into action at other newspaper offices.

At Greater Manchester Weekly Newspapers, which publishes 22 newspapers covering Manchester and parts of Cheshire and Lancashire, some staff were unable to make and receive calls, and alternative production methods had to be put in place.

Group managing editor Stewart Rigby said: “Most of our papers have been affected to some extent, but by no means all of them.

“As a basic rule of thumb the further away from the city you go the better the situation is, but we have had some isolated problems in Macclesfield and Glossop.”

At the Tameside Advertiser emergency telephone numbers were set up after all of its phone lines were hit – and were heavily publicised on various websites run by parent company Guardian Media Group.

Stewart said: “The Manchester Evening News has also been very co-operative and published the numbers at the bottom of its story about the BT cable fire.”

Production at many of the group’s titles was also affected, with pages having to be burned on to a CD and sent by courier rather than using the usual method of ISDN to send them to the head office at Stockport where the papers are all assembled.

Stewart said: “It’s frustrating, but we have built in as many contingency plans as we can.

“We are still going to make our deadlines and I would ask readers to bear with us.”

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