I’m not entirely sure the dust has actually settled on this week’s announcement of a radical shake-up of TrinityMirror’s newspaper publishing operation in the Midlands.
Such is the scale of the changes being proposed, the fall-out will be swirling around for some time to come.
For one thing there’s the 90-day consultation process involving all 300-odd editorial staff, who have effectively been made redundant and told to re-apply for their old jobs as part of an exercise designed to shed 65 jobs.
As you would expect, reaction from within the industry has been quite comprehensive and a pretty mixed bag – Joanna Geary, The Birmingham’s Post’s Development Editor has an excellent round-up on her own blog.
More details have been forthcoming, via both the Post and Evening Mail editor’s pieces in their own papers.
Marc Reeves, editor of The Post, has also sent out a letter to various people in the Midlands further outlining the plans. It all makes for interesting reading and one paragraph in the letter stands out for me:
“I firmly believe this region needs a quality media brand such as The Post to carry the torch for all who invest their time, money and energy in making the Midlands the prosperous economic and cultural powerhouse it is today. Just as industries change and develop, and as new communities settle and grow in the Midlands, so too must the Post change to truly serve its readership.”
I’ve felt the Post has singularly failed to punch its weight, not just in recent years but for a couple of decades.
It has no real rivals as regards informed, agenda-setting, quality journalism in the Midlands and yet has rarely had the profile it deserves.
Both the Evening Mail and Sunday Mercury offer a different product for, on the whole, a different reader and I hope the upheaval they will both go through in the next few months will enhance their positions.
But I believe it is The Post that should be taking the lead that all others follow, getting underneath the key stories and setting a politically-independent tone on important.
I also firmly believe these issues should not be restricted to a local focus. The Post should have a voice and a well-developed and presented opinion on issues of national and international interest, particularly as the city of Birmingham itself and the wider Midlands is pushing for a higher global profile at present.
Birmingham and the Midlands has continued to develop and yet the Post itself has not always kept pace. The changes being brought through are potentially radical enough to make up this gap and help the newspaper overcome the years of under-investment in new technology and ways of working that TrinityMirror is guilty of presiding over.
And yet I still have an element of concern. I found myself nodding in agreement as I read Jon Bounds’ thoughts on the plans and I acknowledge my previous role as Chief Feature Writer on the Post still influences some of my reaction.
I can understand and accept the reasons for scrapping the Saturday edition of the paper – even if it was one of the major vehicles for features. But I’m worried the high quality writing and production provided by the features team will be lost completely within the new-look, business-focused, compact Post which hits the streets in October.
I believe readers will still expect and want a balance in what they read and so I hope that as part of the changes, the talent and expertise of the features team will still find a prominent place within the Post’s pages and on the newspaper’s website.
The business-focus is right. But even the most workaholic does like to switch off, even for a few minutes.
As such I’m concerned that the new-look Post retains some of this balance between work-life and lifestyle.
Despite my slight tabloid dig earlier this week, I’m also fully supportive of the move to “compact”. I’ll always be a broadsheet man at heart, but compact makes much more sense these days in every respect.
My thoughts are with former colleagues and everyone else who is now part of the 90-day consultation and unsure of their own future.
I’ve been through a similar process and although it was very much my decision to seek voluntary redundancy, it was still a difficult time.
It was a huge wrench to leave the Post two years ago, but I have absolutely no regrets.
I’m excited for the newspaper, albeit tinged with a large dose of concern for the future of editorial staff and healthily sceptical about the balance of the compact Post.
I’m also hoping Marc Reeves will keep his promise to provide regular updates of the Post’s progress.
There’s a lot more to learn in the next few months.
[Edit: Marc Reeves has contributed another blog on the Post’s plans here and is seeking feedback on the initial thoughts of the content of the new-look paper.]