The Mirror just brought Britain’s most right-wing rag. Could the Express go left-wing?

Publicly, the group insist nothing will change when it comes to editorial policy. But the scale of cuts suggest otherwise.

Hopes have been raised on the left today: the publisher of the only left-wing tabloid has bought the UK’s most right-wing rag.

Could the formerly UKIP-backing Express turn progressive following today’s Mirror buyout? It’s not an easy one to answer – because both sides are insisting that nothing is going to change. 

There are lots of people to please here – and not everyone is going to be happy. The Competition and Markets Authority are nervous about the deal between Trinity Mirror and the Express group (which includes the Daily Star). So management have been doing the rounds saying everything is going to be totally separate.

And yet – core to the deal are £20m a year in projected savings.

The bulk of these savings are going to come from cutting journalists – something Trinity Mirror are notorious for. The group’s statement says:

“It is anticipated that cost savings will be achieved following the Acquisition, and that a full run rate of £20 million before tax per annum will be achieved by 2020, with a significant amount of these savings achieved in 2019.

“The synergy savings are expected to accrue in the areas of content generation (£9.3 million), cost of advertising sales (£4.3 million), digital and technology costs (£2.1 million), printing and distribution (£3.3 million) and management and central costs (£1.0 million).”

Funny that management gets away with the lightest cuts – but that’s not one for now.

£9.3m in content generation means sharing stories and having journalists working across the groups.

Which is where it all starts to seem far-fetched – a spokesperson for Trinity Mirror told me there would be ‘no change’ in the news desks. But it’s hard to see them saving that much money without changes to news journalists.

Of course, news is highly political. It’s about what issues are prioritised, what angles are pursued, and which perspectives get heard (or ignored). So sharing news content must mean some level of shared editorial policy.

The group were keen to deny any change to the Express or Star’s political slants, with a spokesperson for Trinity Mirror telling Left Foot Forward there would be ‘no change’ in editorial policy:

“This is a commercial organisation, and they’re buying the Express and the other titles for their readership and advertisers. The last thing they want to do is change that.

“200-plus [Trinity Mirror] titles all have their own editorial independence.

“The Mirror isn’t going to become right-wing, and the Express isn’t going to become left-wing.”

When challenged on where cutbacks will be, the spokesperson said:

“The back of the books will merge. The political teams are not going to change.

“It’s much more features and sport and entertainment rather than lobby correspondents.”

It seems unlikely that news desks will be spared the chop – with news holding a significant political and editorial sway.

Trinity Mirror told me: “It’s too early in the process to say what editorial/staff cutbacks will be.”

So that’s all right, then…

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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