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The Grand Old Lady of Manchester media to be sold?

Rumours on the How-Do website suggest MEN is to be sold: is the Guardian Media Group ditching Manchester?

Published on December 17th 2009.

The Grand Old Lady of Manchester media to be sold?

In 1821 the Manchester Guardian was created.

In time Manchester and the Guardian became almost indistinguishable, their identities and qualities merging, both a byword for radicalism. In the 1860s the Manchester Guardian bought the Manchester Evening News.

Shame on the Guardian Media Group. It is their mismanagement that has driven what was a very good regional paper to the ground. To now turn tail and run from it seems a rare species of cowardice.

In 1959 the Guardian dropped Manchester from its name, and fled to London. The Mancunian heritage of the paper was left in the seemingly safe hands of the Evening News which proved popular and popularist.

Now it seems that the Guardian is to drop Manchester altogether. This is the report from the How-Do media website (click here).

'Reports are filtering through this morning that the Guardian Media Group is believed to be in talks to sell the Manchester Evening News to rival publishing group Trinity Mirror. At the time of writing How-Do had been in contact with parties at both GMG and Trinity, but was informed that neither was willing to comment on the matter as yet. It is being suggested that GMG Regional Media is to be sold off in a bid to save jobs and continue with the Scott Trust's overarching objective of protecting the interests of national paper The Guardian. A figure of £40m has been mooted for the sale, but, again, at the time of writing this could not be confirmed. MEN staff that How-Do did manage to speak to informed us that they were unaware of any potential sale.'

Shame on the Guardian Media Group if this is the truth. It is their mismanagement which has driven what was a very good regional paper to the ground. To now turn tail and run from it seems a rare species of cowardice. Ill-thought through decisions such as creating the unwatched monster that is Channel M, producing a stagnant web entertainment mag such as City Life, and moving to Hardman Street on a premium lease, have hit the journalists and other staff hard, costing them their jobs. In fact on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday you have to go out of your way to even find an Evening News.

Of course regional papers have been the principal victims of the shift to the internet in advertising and news coverage: an industry shift largely out of the control of the Guardian Media Group. But the desperate measures to diversify have exacerbated the problem. They have done nothing to help the Manchester Evening News. Yet if How-Do's rumour is correct then Trinity Mirror appears to think there is still value in the brand.

Manchester needs a regular news provider.

The Manchester Evening News should still perform that duty, whether it changes form to become a weekly magazine with daily news online is open to debate. But surely it could make the changes within the framework of the Guardian Media Group.

Certainly those responsible for bringing the MEN to this crossroads should be considering their positions whatever happens. Because if the result of their actions is that Manchester loses its connection – apart from a token presence – with the Guardian after 190 years then that's a hell of an inheritance to have squandered.

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26 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

City DeskDecember 17th 2009.

"Of course regional papers have been the principal victims of the shift to the internet in advertising".... if this is true, why are ManCon having to introduce their Cash for Access Policy? Not getting your fair share?

Mark Garner, the PublisherDecember 17th 2009.

@ A Realist, I agree with you on that, however, with the meberships chugging away rather pleasingly I am about to the Editor a boost in his budget so we can finally produce the definitive whats on guide to the North West, not just Manchester.

John NuttallDecember 17th 2009.

Actually Gavin, it's quite easy to "lay it all at the feet of their management" as that's where the blame lies. In business, when you take a management position then you accept responsibility for the business going wrong not just the glory when it goes right. Commerce is and should be Darwinian. And no, it's not "blame culture", it's quite the opposite, it's the "no blame culture" that permeates Britain nowadays that's the problem. You can't run a business and act like the useless layabouts in the public sector who believe that their salaries and gold plated pensions are their divine right and have no relevance to their lack of performance. Look at those ghastly women who were "in charge" of social service departments where children were murdered on their watch, they're having to be dragged kicking and screaming from the building refusing to accept the slightest hint of blame. You're quite right that the internet has eroded print media's income but if the management at the MEN had managed to successfully move their business into the digital era they would have claimed full responsibility for it's success, equally they must accept the blame for not doing so. The internet has thrown up as many opportunities as it has adverse effects. Look at the music business, the record company executives had grown fat and lazy after years of milking their artists and were too busy putting cocaine and hookers on their expense accounts to react to ringtones and downloads. Had they done what Steve Jobs did with i tunes they would have preserved their income stream. The obvious solution for the MEN is for Gordo to buy it perhaps rebranding it as The Manchester Evening Meals

snDecember 17th 2009.

this is the same Guardian don't forget that lets ex-public schoolboy, BBC controller's son Seamus Milne (their comments section boss) make disgusting, hypocritical remarks about the 'gilded youth' of 'north Tehran' and allow all kinds of nonsense including mealy-mouthed hymns to elements of the Iraqi resistance and genuinely anti-semitic comment to be published (one writer concerned had to be removed once after a public outcry), and allows a Milosevic apologist like Neil Clark to argue w a straight face that British Army Iraqi interpreters should not be given asylum in the UK ("quislings"!) because, er, Neil Clark disagreed w the decision to invade and so anyone supporting the UK presence there is out of his moral boundaries; bottom line the Guardian has been sickening - in places - for a while, i'm afraid. (not that this has any bearing on the story, and i agree w 2010 it is a crying shame the roots are being lost, i'm just using the opportunity to rant at the Guardian ;-) )

2010 soonDecember 17th 2009.

Gavin, this article is about how sickening it is for the Guardian to betray its roots and sell the Evening News. You've misread it.

Michael WestDecember 17th 2009.

@gavin - I think the whole point is about Teh Grauniad burying forever its Manchester roots. It was founded after Peterloo and was very much Reformist, the trust which owns GMG are named after its last Manchester editor. I see this as an article about some of the wild errors that GMG have played and really about the loss of something important. GMG supposedly saved our regional newspapers did let everybody down. Frightened what will happen, printing costs will certainly come down but 120 journalists and half of them part time writing for 15 papers. Hope I get a U for my GCSE analysis.

Ray KingDecember 17th 2009.

That the MEN is a victim of major structural change - migration of recruitment advertising to the web and access to news via a multitude of new media - is beyond doubt. But is it also indisputable that the paper - on which I was a journalist for more than 30 years - suffered grievously from appalling management decisions. The first was to waste more than £20m on a press in Deansgate when the opportunity to share much better plant with the Telegraph in Trafford Park was there many years before the MEN made the inevitable move. Then the decision to go "24 hours" (upon which I left the staff) has proved risible. By setting an "evening" newspaper deadline earlier than that of the morning papers, the MEN sacrificed its ability to compete with the nationals - which was what we strove to do during all the years I was there - on any worthwhile story ever again. They even got the giveaway policy wrong. If the paper is free for some people some of the time, you will in evitably alienate those who have to pay for it all the time. In editorial terms, the MEN has been too timid for years. I had to battle hard, when writing the editorial comment columns, to maintain an anti-Iraq war stance, which is what the MEN did and for which I'm proud. But the editor was too often too willing to accept rubbish if espoused by "leading figures". Hence the paper took a neutral stance on John Prescott's lunatic scheme for an elected north west assemby, came out broadly in favour of the congestion charge (thank goodness my column lasted long enough to say told you so before they sacked me) and accepted the blather from Charles Allen that Granada would continue to be a programme making force in Manchester while ITV was busy airbrushing the most famous commercial TV brand from history.Frankly I don't see much of a future for the MEN. The print media cannot compete with its electronic rivals in bringing the news; it's duty is comment and analysis. Unfortunately virtually everyone at the MEN who might have been experienced enough to delivering that has gone. Don't even get me started on Mark Dodson's egomaniac folly, Channel M. Shame.

EditorialDecember 17th 2009.

We agree. The City Life pullout guide can be excellent. But it's the atitude of the Guardian that gets to us. Where is the loyality and commitment to the city where it all began?

JimDecember 17th 2009.

Trinity's Liverpool Echo, now also a morning paper, is just as awful as the MEN, and the senior management in TM are equally as deluded and clueless as to who their readers might be. This is why they sacked 100 printers in Liverpool and moved printing to Oldham and then wondered why the city turned against them. When they come up from backslapping each other for sacking 60 journalists this year and the remaining acolytes tire of bawling with laughter every time their editor opens his mouth, they will turn their hamfisted strategy to Manchester. Batten down the hatches, Deansgate

snDecember 17th 2009.

a general downturn i suppose, look at the USA, sizeable cities such as Seattle (metro area 3.3 million) have no daily print paper these days.good luck to the Trinity Mirror group, then.i'd probably stick it less to the GMG in this case, more cock-up than design, sadly.

gavinDecember 17th 2009.

the usual confused commentary on the MEN due to the usual cause, personal prejudice slanting factually informed debate. The desire of the author to blame management renders him/her unable to move beyond personalities and realise what's happened at GMG regional has happened at all regional newspaper companies due to a structural shift in revenues and substitution by new lower cost entrants into the marketplace which perform similar functions more effectively. And given that losses have been even greater at some regional groups, its hard to lay it all at the door of their management. Channel m was a mistake but the money expended on that enterprise is a drop in the ocean relative to the losses incurred by this structural shift. If its all so much about mismangement why are so many amercian regional newspapers closing, cost reducing or merging. Is the whole industry staffed by execs without the foresight and abilities of individuals who's skills ahve led them to roles on a small lcoal website? Ridiculous. And who agreed any sizeable changes of policy which have been part of this mismanagement? Not hardman street but GMG in London. But of course, that doesn't fit with this naive almost school childish belief to misunderstand history and econmics and blame individuals. The above's worthy of an F at GSCE in its analysis and specious reasoning, and sadly, is a common occurance of today's blame culture. If soemthings complicated, let's just blame individuals. Tabloid journalism at its worst.

A RealistDecember 17th 2009.

I hope not as their weekend guide to what is going on pretty good as not everything is covered on this site.

GrandwazooDecember 17th 2009.

As a former worker at the Guardian Weekly (which was relocated to London from Cheadle 1993) and the MEN (13 years) and now Trader Media. I have witnessed at first hand many attempts by management to slow down the inevitable decline of the papers circulation. They have done this by trying to stop any competition by introducing new and usually expensive publications (remember the 2 morning freebies). Also by manipulating circulation figures by giving the MEN away as a freebie in the city centre (witness newsagents throwing stacks of papers away into skips at the end of the day which all go towards the circulation figures and to keep ad revenues as high as possible.But it will not stop the decline we see in print publications decline. The fact is that punters are moving towards new digital media. The Guardian website is excellent and is the future for GMG - it will be a world on-line publication along with the Times and New York Times etc. As for local news - sites like this are the future - I use it a lot - and its interactive! newspapers you can do the crossword only. I would be surprised if they actually manage to sell the MEN (at a good price anyway). I have had many good years working in the print media industry but anybody who knows this business (production and design in my case) will have an eye on their future career involving interactive digital media. Its too simplistic to blame the management - its a technological and cultural shift that is happening. Hey you guys at Manchester Confidential - you better be thinking about developing an app for the iphone - you don't wanna be left behind - seriously this site is good and can be much better - keep it up.

Ali McGowanDecember 17th 2009.

I would say I'd be sorry to see the MEN go further down the pan but it's already so bad, a truly terrible paper, that I hardly ever read it. I really, really wish it was high quality, or at least amusing like the Metro, but right now it is neither. I don't think any of my peers read it, because it's so pants. Believe me, if it was good, I'd support it and read it / consider buying it on the days it's not free... but Trinity would have to do a lot to turn it round and improve the quality. It's a shame that a big city has nothing quality to offer as it's local rag.

Names have been changed to protect the innocentDecember 17th 2009.

Gavin, from your amazing spelling can I assume that you are infact one of the MEN bosses being blamed?

Michael WestDecember 17th 2009.

Most local news in the MEN is regurgitated from the local titles anyway. A twice weekly edition (Monday and Saturdays editions haven't been worth bothering about since 1999) would be worth buying. The net has changed the way we read local news. The Johnston Press is moving towards a £5 a quarter subscription fee for some of its locals. (Yorkshire Post?) The monopoly GMG has over local news has been a disaster for everybody and I am sure in many cases it had little to do with helping the survival of local titles.

The Lampshade with AttitudeDecember 17th 2009.

I am a great lover of How Do, the online mag, apart from the list of North West powerful people. For Nick Jaspin to put Mark Dobson in the top twenty is laughable. The man should go now, he doesn't have a clue. My God, anyone, from the first day he announced Channel WTF, who honestly thought it a good idea rather than ploughing into online, please be honest and hold your hands up. I looked at Dobson and knew he was way off the first day. Can you imagine where Garner and his ManCon crew would be now if they had the working capital that Dobson had? Theer would be a Confidential in every city in the UK, along with a few more around the world probably. Manchester would be the King of online regional publishing. Exasperated.

Michael WestDecember 17th 2009.

lend us a pony gordo til a week or two.

weekly hackDecember 17th 2009.

@ gavin. it is true that GMG is not the only group to have been hit by this. but it is the only one to be owned by a company with such high and mighty ethics. gmg deserve to be held to account. while the going was good, management sat back and cashed the cheque. they ploughed money into the massive folly and vanity project that is Channel M and paid next to no attention to the weekly websites, which could have been their saviour if they'd just bothered to take their snouts out of the trough.weirdly, that kind of remains the case, despite all the guff about being multi-platform. how many staff know anything about the back end of any of the 15 weekly websites? how many can upload stories, edit video, update content? one. so don't tell me management know what they're doing.

Peter O'GradyDecember 17th 2009.

Ray King is absolutely right - and he should know. A well thought out and well written contribution to the debate. Only to be expected. Merry Christmas, Ray.

hellersdadDecember 17th 2009.

The MEN in it's present guise is nothing more than a tawdry comic, and not even fit for wrapping chips in. As far as Channel M is concerned, it's going to appear on the Freeview platform in the New Year. Can't wait!

Alan SalterDecember 17th 2009.

It is no longer any of my business...but if it was, I would say good ridance to GMG.But how long can the Guardian last without M.E.N. profits?

AnonymousDecember 17th 2009.

Perhaps if they cut the clothing allowance for that dreadful female clothes horse of a presenter, got rid of the characterless and clueless sports anchor might help the 'unwatched monster that is Channel M'? Unlikely.Considerding they seem to get all their news stories from the back pages of Hello magazine, have given up on providing a news service and are more concerned about making TV for themselves, I for one can't wait for the ax to fall on this. One blessing though it's not on Freeview.

GezzabelleDecember 17th 2009.

I can't believe this! I can't believe that the idiot bosses still have their jobs and are sitting in Hardman Street at the moment. Like you say Jonathan, they should be totally and utterly ashamed at destroying and not nurturing this institution.

snDecember 17th 2009.

would it be the GMG mgmt that's been responsible for a lot of the cosmetic changes at the MEN in recent years? what i'm getting at is i can't imagine the GMG down in that Ldn forced the Diary (an awful waste of space and symptomatic of the slow but inexorable decline of the MEN in general) on to Mr Horrocks. (though would be happy to be proven wrong.) there again, i may be out-of-touch, it's probably a popular column i suppose. David Sue in the City Life pull-out's another one, a very particular style of indie music is what he seems to mine, and not much else..

GrandwazooDecember 17th 2009.

I remember Mark Dodson viewed channel M as a long-term project. Well its been going a long time now and I still don't remember anybody I know ever mention channel M during any conversation ...EVER. It would be interesting to know any viewing figures or costings.

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