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Manchester move 'will dumb-down local reporting'

A chief reporter has claimed the decision to shut his newspaper’s office and move all the staff to Central Manchester will lead to “dumbed-down, out-of-touch reporting.”

MEN Media recently closed a series of weekly newspaper offices around the city as part of a wide-ranging series of cutbacks.

They included the Stockport Express, one of only 25 paid-for weekly newspapers in mainland Britain to enjoy a circulation rise in the last six months of 2008.

Now the paper’s chief reporter and political editor Peter Devine has launched an outspoken attack on the move in an interview with the monthly magazine Total Politics.

“Moving political reporting out of areas such as Stockport will leave a huge vacuum, one which will be filled by dumbed-down, out-of-touch coverage by out-of-town reporters,” he said.

“Our newspaper has proved that readers are looking for publications which provide them with a voice, and that is why we have a circulation increase against a backdrop of massive falls in the weekly and regional press.

“The local political reporter is the person at the coalface, digging out what is happening at the town hall. Without this, the local authority has no check on what it can decide.

“If the political news moves out of the towns and rural areas into the larger cities, then local democratic accountability will be lost.”

Mark Dodson, chief executive of MEN Media parent company GMG regional media, told the magazine that the paper would continue to have a presence in the locality.

“We will hold local surgeries and clinics in local areas where residents can talk to the journalists on a regular basis and offer them stories,” he said.

“Most work is done by phone, email and technology. All reporters will be equipped with Nokia N95s but they’ll just be working from one central location. We’re not closing a single paper down.

“Putting it into perspective, Manchester is not a huge place. Salford is just two miles away and Stockport is 11 miles,” he added.

Mr Dodson also came under fire from a local MP who accused the company of wasting money on its local TV station Channel M.

Denton and Reddish MP Andrew Gwynne said: “GMG wasted an awful lot of money to prop up Channel M while its weekly papers actually made a profit. It is the executives’ baby so they won’t get rid of it.”

Mr Dodson responded: “We’re not going to close the station because our view is that the once we are through the recession there is a future for multi-platform media.”


Mr_Osato (27/05/2009 10:29:29)
Mr Devine is, of course, correct. Mr Dodson is, of course, talking nonsense. It might only be ’11 miles’ from Stockport to the centre of Manchester, but to the people of Stockport that’s a world away, ’cause it ain’t their town and it never will be. And if they were that interested in Manchester they’d buy a Manchester paper like, say, The MEN. Who knows, they might even buy both if they’re decent – guess that option’s been closed off to them. And the situation in Accrington is even more desperate, being force-fed stuff from 20 miles away. Would be interesting to hear what Mr Dodson made of their responses
The piece in Total Politics is well worth a read, by the way.

Stuart (27/05/2009 11:15:14)
Mr Dodson’s comments sum up everything that is wrong at the moment with UK newspapers and why I feel totally disheartened with the way print journalism is going. “Multi-platform media”?? We are talking about a NEWSPAPER! Forget your laptops and gadgets and get back to having a local presence. “Most work is done by phone, email and technology”. Erm, what about getting out and TALKING to local people, Mr Dodson? Channel M has been going for ages and has always been a total waste of space. I cannot believe that he truly believes what he is talking about. But, on the other hand, he is probably getting the 100K a year that could pay for decent reporters at the paper he and his ilk are abandoning. So that’s alright then.

richard meredith (27/05/2009 12:49:31)
Well said Peter Devine …
“The local political reporter is the person at the coalface, digging out what is happening at the town hall. Without this, the local authority has no check on what it can decide…
It may be Stockport and not Westminster, but he is, let’s face it, holding up an example of an irreplaceable function of Good Journalism and a Vigilant Press that the Daily Torygraph (and I never thought I’d say this) is currently proving to the nation every day. Go to it Mr Devine, and don’t let the buggers spin you off course!

exhack (27/05/2009 15:25:12)
The bottom line is that Dodson is an ad man and wouldn’t know a valuable news story if it bit him on the backside.