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Political row brews over North West job cuts

The Guardian Media Group has been called on to rethink its proposals to shed 150 jobs in the North West at its local titles.

Last week the company announced a major shake-up affecting the Manchester Evening News and its 22 sister weekly papers.

If given the go ahead, 78 editorial and 72 non-editorial jobs would go across MEN Media with several district offices closed – similar plans have also been mooted for its Surrey and Berkshire Media division.

Now six North West MPs have written a joint letter, published in Saturday’s edition of the company’s national daily The Guardian, expressing concern over the plans.

It said: “We want to highlight our concern at the announcement by Guardian Media Group of 150 job losses at the Manchester Evening News and its 22 weekly newspapers, including the successful Stockport Express.

“The weekly titles will continue but their offices will be closed and the newspapers will all be written and designed at the Manchester head office by a ‘pool’ of journalists.

“Local newspapers… an essential role at the heart of their communities and are written by a group of dedicated journalists.

“Long-time Guardian editor CP Scott said famously that a newspaper is ‘much more than a business’. It has a ‘moral as well as a material existence’. We call on Guardian Media Group to rethink its proposals.”

The letter was signed by Ann Coffey (Stockport), Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish), Mark Hunter (Cheadle), Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove, Tom Levitt (High Peak) and Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield).

In a response to the letter, the MEN National Union of Journalists chapel wrote to the Guardian thanking the MPs for their “heartening” support.

Father of the Chapel Judy Gordon wrote: “The MPs rightly fear for the threats to democracy and the social fabric of communities.

“What they fail to mention is that GMG gave staff just 13 days to volunteer for redundancy or face being selected for compulsory job loss; 13 days to make possibly the hardest decision of their lives.

“This is from a company which has in recent years seemed to behave increasingly like ‘any other business’ – look at the huge salaries and bonuses awarded to its executives, while the Guardian itself loses millions of pounds.

“This should not be the behaviour of the parent company of the world’s leading liberal voice, the paper I have read for 40 years and the company I have been employed by for nearly 30.

“CP Scott wanted his ideals protected and preserved – but not like this. It is not too late for GMG to rethink its plans.”

Mark Dodson, chief executive of GMG Regional Media, said last week: “MEN Media’s role is to produce great journalism for our readers, users and viewers in Greater Manchester.

“If we want to continue to be able to do this, we need to find a new, sustainable, lower-cost business model to support it.

“The decision about job losses has been a very difficult one to make and I deeply regret that it has been necessary. Nonetheless, I do believe this is the right decision.”


Cadmus (16/03/2009 11:31:34)
Given that hundreds and hundreds journalists’ jobs have already gone along with a raft of papers closing down, what’s so special about the Guardian group that should arouse the ire of – or indeed even wake up – our politicians?

Mr_Osato (16/03/2009 11:43:24)
Well it seems only natural that Manchester MPs would be commenting on the desecration of Manchester newspapers – as Scottish MPs and MSPs have been vocal about cutbacks up there… if your local MP has sat on his hands while newspapers were being wrecked, moved or closed, then that’s something you need to ask them about

Paul Feeney (17/03/2009 10:23:06)
From what I hear the MEN management wants to get rid of its own journalists and replace them with low paid weekly newspapers journalists. Those MEN journalists remaining would be working alongside former weekly reporters earning up to £10,000 a year less. So much for the lofty ideals of The Guardian.This is all about the bottom line. The lunatics have taken over the asylum