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Scots taught a lesson in stinginess by Trinity Mirror

9 December 2005 - EPUK

The announcement by Trinity Mirror to effectively axe The Mirror’s Scottish office yesterday forced its 31-strong office to walk out, as rumours emerged of plans to let PA take over the picture desks of both it and its sister publication Daily Record.

EPUK also understands that Stuart “Knuckles” Nicol, picture editor at the Daily Record has already applied for voluntary redundancy. What does he know that we don’t, we wonder ?

We have had reports for some time from the NUJ of droves of senior management level journalists rushing to join the NUJ ahead of the expected job cuts. One recently signed up senior newsroom staffer said: “It’s very nervous here – it’s only a matter of time before there is a strike.”

According to a spokesman for Trinity Mirror “The Scottish Mirror is not closing but the operation will be scaled back”. Since it is being allegedly cut from a staff of 31 to a staff of just two (presumably one to answer the phones, and one to make the tea) we think that represents a pretty severe scaling back indeed.

The spokesman went on to insist that six journalists will be offered a relocation. That would be a relocation to an office which is, last time we checked, 400 miles away, then. Handy!

The Scottish Mirror has always been in a difficult position. Its main competition is its sister Trinity Mirror title the Daily Record, which has a circulation around ten times higher, and with whom it shares offices as well as news and picture feeds.

Nevertheless, the newspaper has flourished under the careful four-year editorship of Mike Graham, bucking the general tabloid decline and managing to add 10,000 to its circulation. The consistently under- resourced and underfunded office includes a number of well-respected staff, including picture editor Mel Bryan, who was previously at the ill- fated Edinburgh business daily Business AM as well as the AP London desk.

So where has the “PA” solution been applied before ? Well, the the Morning Star was the first, when it replaced three red photographers with an even redder shiny new PA wire machine.

So what’s the cause of all this job cutting ? In October, Trinity Mirror supremo Sly Bailey warned 770 jobs were to be cut across its national and regional titles “in the face of a tough advertising market.” But while advertising has fallen across the group by 7%, the regional and Scottish newspapers facing the brunt of the cuts have outperformed the English-based nationals with an increase of 1.4% and a fall of just 5% respectively. Indeed the regional group has managed to increase circulation by 5% in the first half of 2005.

What is more worrying is the trend this might set for other newspapers in Scotland. While the Scottish Daily Mail has invested a great deal in its Scottish coverage, Express Proprietor Richard “Just stick a Cd on the cover” Desmond has already stripped costs at his national titles to the bone, and to the obvious detriment of the coverage. So while it was all smiles when he opened the new Express offices in Glasgow a few weeks ago, we can’t help wondering if there are some nervous faces in their offices this morning.

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