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Journalists could use court and council buildings as office faces closure

nujlogoA city centre office used by regional daily council and court reporters has been targeted for closure in the latest Trinity Mirror restructure, union chiefs have claimed.

The National Union of Journalists says the small office run by the Birmingham Mail will shut, and three non-editorial staff in the city will lose their jobs as a result.

However Trinity Mirror says the Mail is looking at re-establishing press rooms at court and council buildings for reporters affected by the plans.

Since 2008 most Mail staff have been based at Fort Dunlop, 20 minutes away from the city centre.

As reported on HTFP yesterday, the company has announced changes to titles across England and Wales, which could see more than 15 jobs lost overall.

The company announced that 18 existing roles are under threat at its Birmingham, Liverpool and North Wales centres, although 16 new roles are to be created across the three areas.

Commenting on the office closure plan, NUJ Trinity Mirror national coordinator Chris Morley said: “It is of obvious concern that Trinity Mirror’s only city centre contact point with its readers and customers in Birmingham – a city of one million people – has the axe poised over it.

“The loss of a city centre presence is unanimously opposed by the Birmingham NUJ chapel. The impression this gives to the population at large is of a company that does not care for the city and is prepared, ironically enough, to retreat behind the battlements of Fort Dunlop.

“But of even greater concern is that important roles are being targeted for the chop because they are viewed as ‘more traditional’. This is a slippery slope for the journalism being produced by Trinity Mirror and one highlighted by the NUJ just a few weeks ago to the board and shareholders at the company AGM.

“We will be investigating these proposed changes very closely to understand clearly what the implications are not only for our members but for the communities that these roles serve through existing titles and websites.”

The NUJ said it “welcomes” the creation of new jobs in the restructure, but remains “concerned” about the strategic direction of the company.

Among the roles it claims are under threat by the union is that of Welsh affairs correspondent covering the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff for the North Wales Daily Post.

Martin Shipton, NUJ Trinity Mirror group chapel chair, said: “We deplore these latest announcements, which confirm our fear that the group is moving away from journalism that challenges the locally powerful and holds to account public bodies.

“We have been at the forefront of arguing that an increasing democratic deficit exists, where people are not informed about many vital issues that affect their everyday lives.

“It is bitterly ironic that at a time when the National Assembly for Wales is on course to acquire tax-levying powers, the Daily Post in North Wales has decided that it no longer needs a Welsh affairs correspondent covering the Senedd in Cardiff.

“Diminishing quality news coverage is a risky strategy that endangers the very existence of journalism that adds value. We call on Trinity Mirror’s senior management to consider very carefully the implications of what they are proposing.”

At the same time as yesterday’s announcement, TM also revealed plans to axe the equivalent of 13.5 full-time posts at the recently-acquired former Local World weeklies in Essex, Kent and Surrey.

The plans will see 12 existing newspaper websites across the three counties merged into three county-wide brands.