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Publisher set to axe 76 jobs and take titles overnight

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.”

34 comments

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  • April 15, 2014 at 10:16 am
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    Now watch their circulation figures take a nosedive! A bad decision.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 10:38 am
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    Hmmm, I remember the smugness at the company as they stuck to being an evening paper while everyone else went overnight. Pride comes before a fall…

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  • April 15, 2014 at 10:43 am
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    Absolutely right oldbill. The Birmingham Mail and Coventry Telegraph newspaper sales figures absolutely plumetted after going overnight.
    Mind you, we’d gladly take those figures now instead of the shocking numbers we’re putting out nowadays.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 10:58 am
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    Always sad to see job cuts wherever they happen, especially on my local rag.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 11:10 am
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    It’s a skeleton staff as it is – there are barely enough reporters to cover even diary jobs, let alone pursue original journalism. Every day is a battle just to plug the holes. With 12 fewer staff, how long is it before editions start to be axed altogether?

    My bet would be on a Sandwell/Dudley merger. The reporters (sorry, MPJs) already share an office and cover both patches – it can’t be long before the Powers That Be decide one edition would do to cover both.

    It’s the start of a slippery slope, I’m afraid.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 11:16 am
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    I’m assuming removing 12 editorial staff from the E and S will affect their ability to generate news stories. Media plurality is already an issue in the area, with hyperlocal websites like WV11, Tettenhall, Penn Now, etc filling the gap in local news and info for residents.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 11:34 am
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    Digital is so successful that we don’t need your services as journalists, advertising etc.
    But can digital ever make a profit? As a member of the public I can get all I need to know about property sales, vehicles sales, jobs, and general advertising this very minute.I don’t have to wait overnight, morning, evening or whatever. And I get it all for free.
    As for information about Staffs Hospital it’s all on the telly, radio, social media sites etc etc. The rest of the news I can live without.
    Usually, when businesses are expanding they take on staff not get rid of them. But the media digital world seems to operate the other way round.
    I think I detect a lack of credibility in Phil Inman’s letter. They used to call it kidology.
    Perhaps the digital media will be run purely to reduce tax liabilities in other businesses owned by the company.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 11:59 am
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    6 weeks ago we we’re sat down and given a presentation on how the company moved forwards. Yesterday we were kept in the dark as the company went backwards. Horrible place to work. Hope I can jump ship before it sinks completely.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 1:03 pm
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    Sad news for all concerned, but I’m not sure what else can be done. As one commentator says, small organisations are cropping up left, right and centre, with few office overheads, no staffing costs, no printing or distribution costs and the enthusiasm that comes from the knowledge every minute of graft you put in benefits you, not ‘the man’. There is just no future for groups like this, employing even a relatively small staff. I don’t think anyone is to blame

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  • April 15, 2014 at 1:28 pm
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    I worked on both the E&S and Birmingham Mail in the early 1970s. The E&S’s circulation has fallen from 248,000 to about 85-90,000. The Mail has gone from 320,000 to under 40,000 – fewer sales than the Shropshire Star. I believe the E&S held up reasonably well for so long because it shunned overnight printing, stuck with heavy editioning and its mix of national, international and local news. They spent on their content and it paid off. Their management stood up for what they believed in and the legacy is a viable newspaper. Now they are following the rest of the herd and the “wreckage” that is today’s Birmingham Mail should be a warning of what is likely to lie ahead. Sad but true. We have just been through one of the worst recessions since the 1930s, which has hit advertising. There are strong signs of recovery but nobody in management seems to give a ,passing thought to the possibility that some of the advertising will return. The internet is not (yet) making money for newspapers yet there is a headlong rush to give up on (profitable) newspapers and rush into the digital unknown.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 1:38 pm
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    As an ex E&S man I find this sad. The E&S built its’ considerable reputation on up to the minute multi-edition hyper-local news, mixed in with national stories.
    It was a bit of a monster to feed (especially in quiet patches like Lichfield) and there wasn’t much flair to it, but it produced some great journalists.
    An overnight edition does not seem in the same publishing spirit.
    I have lost touch with it but I would have thought that with a bit of energy and enterprise the network of local offices would make an ideal base for local online publishing without the need for too much grand “re-structuring”.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 1:44 pm
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    Presume that the jobs in circulation and transport are going ‘cos early morning distribution will be taken on by WH Smith or someone similar, and the E+S bespoke distribution department will be no more? Expect to see continued plummeting sales then. Digital over print dominance will inevitably mean fewer staff, lower turnover, but lower overheads, so the number one priority (profitability) may well be enhanced, which will to the benefit of those increasingly few hardy souls left in the company. We must have doubts that the E+S will still be a daily printed paper five years from now.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 1:52 pm
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    By the way, I can’t find anything about this on the E+S website. If it is, it’s well hidden. Let’s not tell the readers, hey?

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  • April 15, 2014 at 2:21 pm
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    “Staff at the MNA were told of the plans yesterday in a presentation by managing director Phil Inman” ….. Hello …. An email late yesterday!

    Making staff redundant from an already skeleton workforce with long served, bloody good reporters (Ooo yes, forgot, MPJs now), jumping ship onto the PR bandwagon, left, right & centre.

    The place is an absolute nightmare to work at, with morale about an inch off the floor.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 2:33 pm
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    Maybe this is a good thing. Morale amongst staff is incredibly low and has been for years. Intolerable pressure is placed on reporters and subs to produce a paper that can compete with internet and television each day. But it’s simply a fight we can no longer win. Twitter, Facebook, even our own website will always scoop the paper. Meanwhile staff go off sick as the pressure from newsdesk and above grows. Awful for the 12 colleagues that do leave but going overnight might make it bearable for the ones remaining.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 2:34 pm
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    So your USP as a same-day paper is no longer worth having then….even though it’s still a valuable USP?

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  • April 15, 2014 at 3:16 pm
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    Next step a change in print format to true tabloid so that printing resources can be shared !

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  • April 15, 2014 at 4:08 pm
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    Overnight or as it really should be known – yesterday’s news tomorrow.

    Feel for all the journos, huge blunder, the Brum Mail’s figures tanked when it went overnight because people are not stupid, the E&S had a golden opportunity to take Birmingham but they didnt bother, went after digital instead.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 4:57 pm
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    Are there still 12 people working in editorial?

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  • April 15, 2014 at 5:47 pm
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    I love newspapers, I’ve grown up with them, I’ve spent most of my working life on them and in publishing houses. The fact all of us who cherish this industry should face is that newspapers, in general, are irrelevant to the the upcoming generations. It’s a dying industry – and we’ve seen the best days it had to offer. The nationals seem to have the best chance of survival.
    As others have commented I can get up to the minute information from 24 hour TV and radio, the internet, Facebook, Twitter . . .
    The MNA with its still massive overheads in terms of workforce, company cars, vans and buildings just cannot compete.
    There is still a place for localised editorial and advertising content – digital will be the target medium – but once again, how does anyone make (enough) profit from it?
    I worked for the MNA for over 20 years and was made redundant a few years ago. Although I didn’t feel so at the time they did me a favour.
    The loss of jobs within the MNA has been an ongoing process since around 2007. I feel for what the staff are still going through 8 years on – yet another round of redundancies. Those that are left will face a change of hours, pay and conditions.
    Look on the bright side – maybe they’ll still hold the annual company “look how well we’re doing” party in the Autumn . . . .

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  • April 15, 2014 at 6:36 pm
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    Obviously a terrible move. As someone said above, it might just make the business a bit more profitable for the people at the top for a bit longer, but the product will be a joke.

    This is the company which says one thing and means another. Two weeks ago it was praising circulation for getting the paper more visible in supermarkets – now almost half circulation staff are going.

    I’m sick of the rubbish and it’s time to go, because this ship is sinking.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 7:01 pm
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    That makes send. Aim to do more – extend digital operation and cut staff numbers to make that easier to achieve…

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  • April 15, 2014 at 8:07 pm
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    It’s the end of an era. This will kill off the print circulation. Maybe that’s the plan..

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  • April 15, 2014 at 9:44 pm
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    So sad to see a great ship start to founder. I worked at the E & S during the heydays of the 1960s before leaving for NZ.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm
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    Think of the positives . . . you can all go into PR, produce press releases and be sure it will be published!!!!!

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  • April 15, 2014 at 11:48 pm
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    If you look at the circulation figures for newspapers which move overnight (Steve Zacharanda and enough is enough for example) you often find the circulation trend improves for a while – ie the decline is a little less steep. This was true of both the Coventry Telegraph and Birmingham Mail. Both have continued to see declining circulations, but their circulation trend did not get any worse as a result of going overnight.

    Newspapers work best in the 21st century when they break news, rather than just chase breaking news – because the breaking news will always be delivered faster via social media, websites and so on. Saying overnight print means ‘yesterday’s news tomorrow’ is only true if you don’t have the imagination and flair to go out and get your own stories. The Birmingham Mail is a great example of a newspaper which has people with those skills, and it does set the news agenda in Brum as a result.

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  • April 16, 2014 at 9:52 pm
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    Must say I’m disappointed with the MNA. I work in the advertising department (boo advertising rep I know I know) and this announcement came as a total surprise. All internal communications were positive then all of a sudden we get an email with job cuts on. . . . . .
    I can only speak for my department but we are literally on skeleton staff already so not sure how they are going to make these cuts work.

    The MNA is focusing totally on digital based on a survey of just 500 readers, and whilst I agree this is a platform to pursue it feels like we are trying to run before we can walk. The general grasp of the digital platform is weak amongst the people trying to promote it internally so what hope do our readers and advertisers have. . . . .

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  • April 17, 2014 at 4:46 am
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    Don’t think you can “blame” the hyperlocal websites for the demise of the E&S, if that is indeed what’s happening.

    As circulations continue to fall it finally dawns on advertisers what bad value they get and so they turn to other ways to get their messages across to the general public.

    The hyperlocals just dabble at occasional advertising (I know we do at any rate) and are more about community spirit than profit making.

    I was always appalled by how late local newspapers were to embrace the Internet rather than try to fight it with paywalls.

    And some of the formatted newspaper websites – in fact most of the ones I have seen – are truly appalling right across the UK with dreadful designs and content management systems.

    These were the very places where maximum effort should have been put in, but they have been almost completely ignored.

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  • April 17, 2014 at 10:43 am
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    This isn’t the first time this paper has announced such a scheme – yet it’s always the vital teams that lose the staff that they need to keep this paper alive!! It’s no great surprise that they are losing readers/revenue when they run stories on a Clown losing his shoe in Telford – yet in the paper itself there is no mention at all of these impending redundancies!! Wonder if the fat cats at the top are still retaining their roles as first class leaders in this industry??!!! Hmmmmmm……

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  • April 17, 2014 at 5:54 pm
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    I note the much-earlier mention of the Mid-Staffordshire Hospital scandal – a story broken by the E&S.
    Many of these injustices will be hidden under the carpet from now on.
    Combine this with the Daily Mail/internet pictures ruling and the politicians must be rubbing their hands (or working hard on their expenses.

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  • April 17, 2014 at 7:25 pm
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    So, just when the MNA start to paint a false picture to there staff by throwing expensive parties, telling them how the future looks bright they drop this bombshell on them! I feel for all the members of staff who still work there, some of them my friends!! The problem there is they missed the boat years ago! They are so behind with the times it’s frightening!! They still found money though recently to refurb the building inside to make it look nice and shiny….however you can’t polish a turd!!! Are the Graham’s to blame? Do they really know what’s going on there? Me, I personally think it’s the poor middle management who haven’t got a clue how to run the business correctly!! Oh well, good look E&S, your going to need it!! Remember….. Digital is the way forward, that’s where the advertising revenue is going to come from, it’s just that the advertising department don’t really sell that much of it yet!! I suppose they could try selling the digital editorial content again? No, people didn’t buy it then either!!

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  • April 18, 2014 at 8:59 am
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    Sad to see numbers sliced. From memory it was always very busy with the staff we had back in the early 80s. Best wishes to any remaining staff that might remember me. Cheers

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  • April 20, 2014 at 10:12 am
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    Without naming names some once superb same-day city papers now have pathetic circulations as next day papers. Some have dropped from peaks of 100,000 plus a day to around 15,000 a day. not sure who is to blame, but it is remarkable.

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  • May 14, 2014 at 11:38 pm
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    One thing is definite. I will bet that members of the E&S Golf Society
    stand a good chance of keeping their job.

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