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“WHITE KNIGHT” OFFERS HOPE FOR POST

25-06-2009

Solihull Observer publisher Chris Bullivant has told the NUJ he’s interested in keeping the Birmingham Post daily and saving some of the free Trinity Mirror papers apparently facing the axe in the region. Meanwhile Post and Mail insiders are curious about the source of yesterday’s leak, which suggested several titles are threatened.

The journalists’ union claims to have seen an internal documents proposing that the Post should become a weekly or bi-weekly publication – effectively killing it off in all but name.

They also reckon that eight existing weeklies could disappear – including one “which at one time had ten staff, including seven reporters, [but which] currently operates with just one trainee."

That’s brought puzzled looks at the company’s local HQ at Ford Dunlop, where staffers don’t know of any publication which meets that description.

There’s also bafflement at the NUJ’s claim to have seen a document outlining all of the proposed changes, because although all of the various measures been discussed in the past, they have never formed part of a single proposal.

That’s led to speculation that Trinity Mirror might have planted the story itself to soften up the workforce for the cuts to come – although this claim can’t be verified.

Should the worst happen, Bullivant - whose Redditch-based empire includes 18 freesheets – is a potential white knight riding to the rescue.

He told the NUJ: “I would love to take part in negotiations over the future of those titles in the Midlands that Trinity Mirror wants to close that aren’t in conflict with our existing publications.

“We would undertake to save the jobs of as many staff as possible, given that the newspapers were viable.

“We would even consider allowing Trinity Mirror to keep the contracts for printing and distributing the titles – which would have considerable benefit for their workforce.

“I have always admired the Birmingham Post and felt that with better marketing it could be a real success. If anyone wants to join me in a consortium to take over the paper I would jump at the chance.”

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: “We welcome Chris Bullivant’s expression of interest in saving these Midlands newspapers – though obviously we would want guarantees on the terms and conditions of any journalists who transferred to his company.

“Mr Bullivant’s intervention shows that there are successful business people who have faith in the future of the regional press.

“The slash and burn policies of the big companies like Trinity Mirror – closing titles rather than selling them – are damaging to local communities and local democracy.”

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