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Weeklies’ staff to move to neighbouring county as Trinity Mirror closes office

Journalists at two weeklies are set to relocate to the office of a sister title 30 miles away – with three jobs at risk as a result.

Trinity Mirror plans to close its Hertford office, where the Hertfordshire Mercury and Herts and Essex Observer are based, and transfer staff to the headquarters of Essex Live, in Chelmsford.

Staff were told of the move last Thursday, on the same day the regional publisher announced it plans shed up to 49 jobs as part of the next phase of its rollout of a new newsroom model – bringing the total number of redundancies set to be made as a result of the nationwide restructure to almost 100.

The Chelsmford newsroom is among those switching to TM’s new ‘Live’ model whereby digital teams are made independent from the print teams.

Stag House, Hertford, where the two titles are currently based

Stag House, Hertford, where the two titles are currently based

An announcement to affected staff states: “In order to continue the impressive audience growth of Essex Live and to future-proof our important print products, it is proposed to merge the Essex Live and Herts newsrooms.

“The Herts newsroom will close and journalists transferred to the Essex Live newsroom based in Chelmsford. The new, joint newsroom, led by brands editor Alan Woods, will adopt the Live principles successfully piloted in Birmingham.

“This means the newsroom will be split into digital and print teams. Trainee journalists will rotate between both teams to ensure a first-class grounding in all media.”

It is understood that three editorial roles in Hertford including a trainee reporter position are at risk of redundancy as a result of the changes although TM has not confirmed this.

Herts & Essex Observer journalists were formerly based in Bishop’s Stortford, but moved to Hertford when their office was closed in 2016.

The Bishop’s Stortford office, on North Street, has since been taken over by the Bishop’s Stortford Independent, which was launched last year by Iliffe Media and is run by former Observer staff.

Last year TM announced closure of dedicated websites for the Observer and Harlow Star, with content appearing on its Hertfordshire Mercury and Essex Live sites instead.

Trinity Mirror declined to comment.

18 comments

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  • March 29, 2018 at 11:55 am
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    Fascinating isn’t it – almost akin to the crazy plans that saw Wimbledon FC ‘relocate’ to Milton Keynes!

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  • March 29, 2018 at 12:35 pm
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    And where is the logical in separating the digital and print teams? I sympathise with staff being asked to do more and more but surely with resources so scant, this runs the risk of unnecessary duplication?

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  • March 29, 2018 at 2:09 pm
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    TM are confusing ‘future-proof’ with ‘finally kill off’.

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  • March 29, 2018 at 2:15 pm
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    I never even realised they’d sold or developed the beautiful old office they had in Hertford. Quite a killing they’ve made I presume and now a few more redundancies to take them over the 100 mark in recent weeks. I’m sure the people at the top are toasting there success in recent weeks with a nice fat easter bonus to end the tax year.

    My thoughts are with those effected and I wish them much luck in the future.

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  • March 29, 2018 at 3:04 pm
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    This is just indicative of a company which has no business sense whatsoever. Print or digital, how are you going to keep in touch with another county? TM’s regional press portfolio will be largely gone within three years, I’d say…

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  • March 29, 2018 at 3:40 pm
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    I’m a distribution man so I wonder if some of you fine people on that side of the operation could explain to me why you would want to split digital and print? Surely the end goal is the same regardless of platform and financially having 1 operation feeding every stream is a better idea than running 2 teams with the same goal? Seems like it would be less cost effective to me.

    Although I did tend to rationalise people in to certain camps in my time to make getting read of them easier down the line. But that can’t be the reason surely.

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  • March 29, 2018 at 5:05 pm
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    I think the idea of splitting print and digital is easy to understand. Once the print side ceases to exist, and going on circulation losses over the last ten years that won’t be too long, it’ll be easier to just get rid of the print journalists. And the digital journalists won’t fare too well either because there won’t be enough cash coming in to pay them all.

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  • March 29, 2018 at 10:08 pm
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    The Central and East region of Local World used to include LSN (Beds on Sunday, One MK, Luton on Sunday and Northants H&P), Herts and Essex newspapers (Harlow Star, H&E Observer and Herts Mercury) and CNL (Cambridge News, Ely News and various satellite freebies). From what I can see, LSN, Ely News and Cambridge freebies have been closed while Herts and Essex remaining titles have been transferred to Essex. So can someone explain what the Cambridge Editor-in-Chief is ‘in-Chief’ of now?

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  • March 30, 2018 at 10:46 am
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    Over 10 years of re-organisations and staff culls, and the crisis facing the regional press just seems to get worse.

    Whilst the major UK newspaper groups have no doubt improved the look of their books with all these re-organisations, there is no indication whatsoever that they have got close to finding the solution to the real problems – dwindling print audiences, and an online schema that will pay the bills.

    It will take much more than a Brand Editor or two or “Live models” to get to grips with that problem.

    Certainly treating your declining print audiences with utter contempt by selling them newspapers supposed to be filled with “local” content, which are produced in the next county and usually printed scores of miles away is hardly the ideal recipe to increase circulations.

    By the way – do not look to me for solutions, because I haven’t any. Back in the mid-90s regional press management took their eyes off the ball once to often. Their apathy, along with a total failure to understand the very real threat posed by the internet, took us to a situation where escape looks a very long shot, indeed.

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  • March 30, 2018 at 2:11 pm
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    @Napoleon Solo. Do they still do the Cambridge Midweek formally Cambridge weekly news? I know the shut all the others down but never saw or heard about that one. I know they changed the model slightly.

    It literally breaks my heart seeing some of the above in writing. Great titles gone that I and me team worked ourselves in to the ground to get out every week and gave the highest standard we could to them to help make them a success. Imagine that I literally nearly killed myself for this job I loved then this lot come along and throw everyones hard work in the bin. Why they didn’t sell back to illiffe is beyond me!

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  • March 30, 2018 at 2:21 pm
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    When I entered journalism nearly 50 years ago, I worked with a veteran reporter, whose favourite expression was “they’ve got no more idea than the man in the bleedin’ moon” when frustrated by the management suits.
    If he was still around, he’d wouldn’t be surprised to know that nothing has changed. Indeed, characters of their ineptitude are now operating in a completely parallel universe to those hard-working people at the sharp end, who are trying to maintain some resemblance of professionalism.

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  • March 31, 2018 at 7:34 am
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    And the Advertiser series in HEN, Napoleon. #justsaying

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  • April 3, 2018 at 8:39 am
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    So, whatever it says, Trinity Mirror is finally sounding the death knell on newspapers that have been in existence for nearly 250 years (Mercury) and more than 150 years (Observer) respectively. As a former boss of the company that used to run these titles, I think it’s both a tragedy and a travesty. Why on earth didn’t Trinity Mirror let a company that knew and understood the area, i.e. Iliffe News and Media, have these titles when they split after the Local World fiasco? Running a Hertfordshire newspaper group from the county town of Essex would be laughable if it were not so tragic. RIP HEN.

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  • April 3, 2018 at 9:55 am
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    @garymatt
    like other large or middle sized regional groups they threw the baby out with the bath water in the mistaken belief that the future revenue provider would be digital so they backed off from investing in print believing it was bullet proof, would always be a habitual buy and thus needing no further investment.
    By weakening the papers and failing to capitalise on the new online news audiences they’ve now all fallen between two posts and neither print nor digital are providing anywhere near enough revenue to sustain large workforce’s and overheads,leaving the question of where to next?

    The only publishers thriving and growing their businesses are the new independents who publish free papers full of community news which the others no longer provide. Their audiences also attract the local businesses who spend their ad budgets once spent with the bigger players.
    Years of bad decisions and weak management have brought them to the place they now find themselves in and where closure,centralisation and cutting staff numbers appears to be their only answers.

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  • April 3, 2018 at 11:24 am
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    What upsets me the most is that I knew the figures and what was being made from the titles above in 2012/13 when Local world came about. I also know how much they saved from leaving the internal press, from shutting offices, centralising pay roll, closing local offices, centralising distribution and management services as well as a number of other things. When I factor all of those things in against the reported revenue declines from advertising etc there was still a decent profit in the titles if they had carried on giving them some level of focus and not messing about with them.
    But as per the decision to remove Beds on Sunday from a Sunday despite the fact in the words of the departing editor “it was still making a decent profit” shows the only objective to these people. One oz of knowledge of that title and the esteem that brand had in the area would make you realise what a stupid decision it was. Whenever they cut the print run on all titles over Summer and Xmas the complaints it received in regards to non deliveries out numbered all other titles by at least 4:1 and the local offices would ship out 100’s of copies within an hour of being open.
    A simple phrase in business is give the customer what they want. There’s also another about understanding your customer. This is something that will never be understood when running a local business against a national model. .

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  • April 3, 2018 at 4:54 pm
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    @formerloyalfollower You are spot on about the BoS. But this is what happens when you get rid of people who know the titles and area. It’s interesting that they are using the BoS Facebook page to drive traffic to Cambridge News, probably because it still has a far larger number of likes (77k to 64k). From what I’ve heard, the digital bods who built up those titles online were either made redundant or left. Speaks volumes for the TM level of management competence. Apologies @gigglewitch I did forget the Advertiser. Sorry.

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  • April 3, 2018 at 6:04 pm
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    Its sad there is almost nothing left of the old Iliffe titles, the ones left for Cambs areas (the News and Camb Magazine) are pale versions of their former self. Even Local world reign was not as bad as the Trinity mirror slaughter. People can say “oh they don’t make money” but when you cut back on staff numbers heavily, it shows in the final product)

    I really don’t know why Trinity mirror didn’t give back the titles for Cambs and herts when TM took over LW? Trinity have killed off so many of the titles for these 2 areas and so many lost their jobs. Iliffe are reaping the rewards, also lot of old staff are working for them now.

    Honestly, Trinity mirror should just sell off their Local newspapers and do the industry a favour, while there is something left.

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