Media Wales and Daily Post job cuts 'death throes' of press

Western Mail front page
Image caption The latest job losses follow 36 posts being cut at Media Wales in 2011

Job losses announced at a newspaper group could signal the "death throes" of the press industry in Wales, a media expert has warned.

Trinity Mirror announced it is cutting 16 jobs at Media Wales - publishers of the Western Mail and South Wales Echo - and four at the Daily Post north Wales.

Cardiff University's Dr John Jewell said plans to use national content in the regional papers could be damaging.

Trinity Mirror said the changes were necessary to ensure the papers' future.

The company, which also publishes Wales on Sunday and the Celtic local newspapers in south Wales, announced on Tuesday that it will axe a total of 92 jobs, but create 52 across Wales and England.

The job losses in south Wales will mainly be in the features department.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said the changes would threaten to remove much of the papers' Welsh content in favour of more generic features.

Dr Jewell, who is director of undergraduate studies at the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, warned that the job losses could damage democracy in Wales.

"It pains me to see these job losses and perhaps they are the death throes of the newspaper industry as we currently know it," he said.

"This is the latest in a series of job losses at these papers and what's tragic is that local issues are bound to be ignored if you've not got local journalists covering them.

"So number one - politicians are not going to be scrutinised and held accountable. And number two is that people will be relying on PR and council press releases for news."

He said the changes were being driven by "economics" and the fact that people no longer wanted to pay for newspaper "when they can get their news for free online".

'Local bands'

Richard Sambrook, who is director of the Centre for Journalism at Cardiff University, said managers in newspapers had to make "difficult decisions" in order for the titles to survive.

"I have been a news manager and I know you have to make hard choices," said Mr Sambrook who started his journalistic career at Western Mail and Echo before moving onto the BBC, where he was a news director.

"From a customer's point of view, to see resources being taken away is not a good thing.

"But the economics are changing and advertisers aren't spending the money, people aren't buying papers."

Media Wales cut 36 jobs across its titles in 2011.

Plaid Cymru media spokesperson Alun Ffred Jones said newspapers in Wales were being "subjected to death by a thousand cuts".

"Stripping out local features content in favour of generic UK-wide content will undoubtedly affect the appeal of the newspaper to Welsh readers," he said.

"For example, if a health feature is going to be written in England, will it take into account the fact that responsibility for the NHS has been devolved to Wales?

"What will happen to the local bands and music clubs who rely on press coverage if there is no locally-based feature writer with good local contacts to bang the drum for the local scene?"

Trinity Mirror editorial director Neil Benson said: "Our newsrooms have made great progress in embracing the digital world in recent years but, essentially, our processes have remained print-led.

"This new approach is a bold, imaginative step that will enable us to become a fully-fledged, digitally-focused news operation, and brings together for the first time the best of our regional and national journalism.

"It is never easy to make these decisions when it affects our colleagues in this way but we must re-engineer the way we work if our journalism is to thrive in the future."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "The Welsh government hopes that Trinity Mirror will do all it can to ensure that the distinct content its Welsh readership currently enjoys is maintained should these proposals go ahead."

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