More cuts in pipeline as Trinity Mirror buys up the Express
By BILL HEANEY
February 10, 2018 – The owners of the Lennox Herald and a chain of other Scottish weekly newspapers have sealed a £200m deal with porn publisher Richard Desmond to buy his Express and Star national titles, as well as the celebrity magazine OK!
Trinity Mirror, the publisher of the Daily Record plus Labour-supporting Daily and Sunday Mirror as well as the Sunday People, has paid £126.7m for Desmond’s Brexit-supporting titles. The company has also agreed to invest £70.4m in staff pension schemes through to 2027.
Simon Fox, the chief executive of Trinity Mirror, said the five national newspapers would remain editorially independent, but nothing about the weeklies, many of which are controlled from a central hub in Glasgow.
“The Mirror is not going to go right-wing and the Express is not going to go left-wing,” he told the Guardian. “They will absolutely all have editorial independence. Decisions on what goes into each title will be entirely down to the editors.”
However, it will worry staff on the weeklies as more and more cuts are implemented.
Trinity Mirror wants to make £20m in annual savings, with £9.3m from “content generation”. This will mean job cuts, the pooling of some editorial resources and considering the viability of magazines such as New and Star.
Fox gave the example of creating a single sports team to serve all the papers, although in areas such as politics the teams would remain separate.
“Rather than sending many reporters to cover the same football games, we can cover more games, more sports and offer deeper and wider content,” he said. “Then it will be down to the editors as to what content they want to use.”
Fox said no decisions had been made about the movement of staff between the sites, but staff, many of whom have already been shifted out of their offices to central hubs or made redundant are fearful about their future.
One told me: “That remark from Fox about having just one person to cover a football match for a number of papers is indicative of someone who knows everything about number crunching and damn all about football and what fans expect when they pick up a paper after a match.
“If the fans don’t get a number of different takes on how a game has gone, they will soon wise up to the fact they are being short-changed and stop buying more than one newspaper. This is just another piece of asset-stripping by financiers whose only concern is the share price.”
Desmond is known for his outspoken views, but Fox said he did not expect any problems.
Trinity Mirror, which owns a large regional newspaper portfolio including the Manchester Evening News and Birmingham Post, employs more than 5,300 staff. About 2,200 are in editorial; 700 on the national titles and 1,500 on the regionals and weeklies.
The deal still needs approval from Trinity Mirror shareholders, who will vote on it in the next two weeks.