The publisher of Britain’s biggest regional daily has begun a consultation on taking the title overnight as part of a restructure that could see the loss of up to 76 jobs.
Midland News Association, publishers of the Express and Star and Shropshire Star, plans to reduce staff numbers across all departments, including 12 in editorial, 12 in advertising, 21 in circulation and 12 in transport.
It is also considering moving both its daily titles to overnight publication, five years after fellow West Midlands daily the Birmingham Mail made a similar move.
Since then the Express & Star has regularly used its status as the region’s only on-the-day publication to break big stories ahead of its rivals.
For instance, in February 2013, the E&S was able to publish five pages of same day coverage on the publication of the Francis report into poor health care provided at Stafford Hospital.
The then editor Adrian Faber said at the time: “It was a job well done and provided the best possible coverage on an important issue. It also displayed our strength in being a same-day publisher.”
Staff at the MNA were told of the plans yesterday in a presentation by managing director Phil Inman.
In a story posted on the company’s website last night, he said the company needed to restructure in order to boost its digital operation to meet the needs of its growing online audience and enhance revenues.
Said Phil: “The business needs to change to capitalise on digital growth, which has seen people read our content in more ways than ever before.
“Staff consultation has begun on proposals which will ensure the MNA is better positioned to serve our print and digital audiences. It is business as usual while consultation is conducted.
“The plans being proposed will shape a strong future for the MNA, where it remains the leading publisher in its markets.”
A letter explaining the proposals and their implications has also been sent to all staff in which Phil sets out the plans in greater detail.
He writes: “As I explained in the presentations, the group must be structured to create a sustainable business for the future. This process is essential to ensure that we make the most of the opportunities ahead.
“The results of the staff surveys to date showed many colleagues shared the management team’s desire to see a Group which can meet the changing needs of readers and advertising clients.
“The Express & Star and Shropshire Newspapers have strong futures where they will remain the leading publishers in their markets but we must consider new ways of operating that better reflect the change in people’s lives. This will necessitate significant investment to strengthen the digital operation.
“We prize the loyalty of colleagues but to better position the businesses to serve our print and digital audiences, a reduction in staff will be necessary. It is hoped that as much of this reduction as possible can be achieved through voluntary severance but compulsory redundancies cannot be ruled out.”
There will now be a 45-day consultation period on the company’s proposals.
In his letter Phil said the exact number of job losses was “still under discussion” and that numbers “may change.”
He said the plans to move to overnight publication would mean potential changes to working hours for news editors, sub-editors and drivers and potential moves to “continental style shifts” for print production staff.
Phil concludes: “I appreciate what a challenging time this is for everybody connected with the Group but given the context I have outlined, a process of change is needed. If we stand still, for the first time in the MNA’s history we risk becoming irrelevant to the way people live their lives.”