So the story about Trinity Mirror cutting 25 jobs at its Birmingham newsrooms and the Editor leaving has been kicking about for a few days now.
In what is being called Newsroom 3.1, editorial jobs are being cut from 93 to 68 in the Midlands. Quotes from the internal memo include things like:
aims to make Trinity Mirror Midlands a “truly digitally-focused newsroom”.
We have to continue our digital growth, make the Birmingham Mail and Coventry Telegraph better titles – all with fewer people
focus relentlessly on the content that we know gives us the most return for our effort while staying true to our values – and being ruthless about content that doesn’t
I have said for a number of years that the local dead tree press needs to change its game but this really isn’t the way forward.
First it was ads on the website, lots of ads, ads so big in some case it pushed the content below the fold, to use a newspaper term.
Now it is these changes by Trinity Mirror and other regional publishers that are accelerating the race to the bottom. We have seen the dumbing down of local news sites already with almost identical lists of, 20 things that only someone who lives in [insert name of town] will understand, being published as news across several titles, or as seen in the Manchester Evening News recently, a gallery of images scraped from Google Street View and branded as news. This is at best, a primary school project or something to do at lunchtime for people too lazy to go out and smoke, one thing is for sure it is not news!
Editorial meetings will no longer be about who is covering what story and which local government stories need investigating, it will be the culmination of an analytic led gladiatorial battle where the person who wrote the best click bait will be given the title of Deputy Digital Editor, for a week, and those who didn’t will be
put in a “performance improvement plan” and, “in very exceptional circumstances”, face disciplinary action.
Editors will become more like Roman Emperors getting rid of poorly performing contract click bait writers and replacing them with the next fresh faced hopeful journalism student. Although I doubt that even the need to have studied journalism will be a requirement, as long as you can write a headline that will AMAZE readers and encourage click through.
More worrying is this quote from the memo
The days are long gone when we could afford to be a paper of record and dutifully report everything that happened on our patch.
Surely it is the basic function of any local news publication to report what happens on their patch? If they are not going to report on local issues then why bother publishing at all?
According to the Trinity Mirror owned Manchester Evening News website they aim to:
Set the regional news agenda
If the changes in the Midlands, which undoubtedly will be rolled out across all their titles, are anything to go by then they really have missed the target with setting the regional news agenda. Any regional publisher that continues down this route of only being interested in what generates clicks really do deserve everything they get. Ultimately they are killing off institutions which have been around since the late 1800’s.
I totally get that printing papers costs money, there are deadlines that don’t fit in with the breaking news society that we all live in and crave and people like to see stuff on screens, but there has to be a better way to adapt rather than turning what used to be renowned and authoritative publications in to nothing better than advertising click bait sites.
Newsroom 3.1 – be prepared to be AMAZED.