Media: Owner of Sweden’s biggest free newspaper leaks plan to fire journalists

The owner of Metro, Sweden’s biggest free newspaper, announced plans on Tuesday to fire all of the newspaper’s journalists as they “no longer fit into (the) business model”, Swedish news SVT reported.

In an interview with Swedish newspaper Expressen, Metro’s owner Christen Ager-Hanssen announced that Metro will now become a “content purchaser” – that all directly-employed journalists will be terminated and that Metro’s material will now be made by content agencies.

“Journalists do not fit into our business model. There are several content agencies that produce material that suit us,” Ager-Hanssen told Expressen.

“As owners, we are completely uninterested in news, it is not commercially healthy,” Ager-Hanssen added. “Our strategy is to be the best at content buying. Buy cheap and good.”

Later on Tuesday Ager-Hanssen partially denied the statement published in Expressen, saying that as he is not CEO of Metro the decision is not his to make, but rather that he was proposing a new direction. According to SVT, Ager-Hanssen insists that the final decision will be up to Metro’s editor-in-chief and new CEO. However, SVT report that Ager-Hanssen’s resignation as CEO has not yet been registered with the Swedish Companies Registration Office.

For the newspaper’s employees, Tuesday morning’s news was the first information they received about the risk of losing their jobs. Ulrika Hyllert, chairman of the Journalists’ Union, criticised Ager-Hanssen’s choice to convey this news via a public interview.

“This is nothing that either we at the Journalist Union or the employees at Metro have been told in advance, and unfortunately it is not the first time the employees have received drastic messages via the media,” Hyllert told SVT.

“As far as information that comes from Metro’s owners is concerned, we have previously had a hard time relying on what will happen. We’ll see what happens when it happens. This type of statement creates a great concern – which is unnecessary if it turns out not to be correct,” Ulrika Hyllert told Swedish news website Media World.

Metro is Sweden’s biggest free newspaper, with a readership of over 1 million daily readers until it was forced to stop printing in March 2019 after amassing millions in debts, including unpaid rent and taxes. According to Expressen, the company now has debts exceeding SEK 59 million (over 6 million U.S. dollars).

In April 2019, the newspaper announced plans to sack 40 percent of its staff, with Ager-Hanssen indicating to Expressen that Metro could become “100 percent digital” in the near future. The reconstruction was required to be completed by June 28, but Ager-Hanssen told Expression that the company is applying for three months’ extension. (1 U.S. dollar = 9.27 SEK)