THE fact that you are reading my article this week means that it directly affects you.
This newspaper, the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail and newspapers all over the West Midlands are under threat.
Trinity Mirror Group, who own the titles, have cut nine titles already and are currently in their third round of job cuts involving journalists, photographers, distribution staff and others.
The Birmingham Post, the Midlands’ flagship quality daily, is to become a weekly paper, and the Evening Mail will be printed overnight, saving distribution costs but losing any morning breaking news.
Lack of advertising revenue and competition from other media, like the internet, are mainly to blame. But ironically the internet, radio and TV poach many of their stories from local newspapers!
Of the free sheets, the Solihull Times has already been amalgamated with the News, and journalists and photographers’ jobs have been lost. The Observer has been in administration, but was rescued and is now run from Leamington Spa.
Trinity Mirror has invested heavily in a new state-of-the-art centre at Fort Dunlop, but journalists will be expected to work on more than one newspaper, which will dilute the distinctive style of the paper. (It would be hard to find papers more different than the Birmingham Mail and Sunday Mercury, for example).
The new-style weekly Birmingham Post will have over 100 pages, and be well worth buying as a regional news magazine, although the immediacy of the stories will be lost. I’ll certainly be buying it.
But while new technology is good as far as it goes, it can’t make up for the reduction in quality, investigative journalism which is inevitable. I’m currently working with a Post journalist on investigating an alleged illegal rendition flight out of Birmingham Airport.
But the amount of time these underpaid, unsung heroes and heroines have to do this kind of stuff will be greatly reduced as they need to spend more and more time inputting and less and less on ‘real news’. Somebody said that a definition of news is something somebody doesn’t want you to hear. You only have to recall the Telegraph MPs’ expenses scandal to realise the truth of this.
Quality, hard-hitting journalism isn’t just good entertainment: it’s fundamental to the health of our democracy. Local newspapers are the bedrock of news disseminated by all the media, so please support your local newspapers.