Sweden’s biggest free newspaper shuts down

Metro, Sweden’s biggest free newspaper, ceased production on Friday, Swedish news SVT reported.

After months of turmoil for the embattled newspaper, staff turned up to work earlier this week to find the doors locked. At 1 p.m. local time (11:00 GMT) on Friday, staff were informed of the decision to permanently close down Metro’s news and sales departments.

“The landlord had put a note on the door that we did not have access to the premises, but we had to come in a few hours later. That’s when it started to get worrisome, and now the bomb has dropped,” a former Metro employee told SVT news.

The Metro newspaper — which since March has been reduced to a website and a printed weekend magazine distributed to limited areas — will be closed down permanently. The decision means that the entire remaining news and sales departments will lose their jobs.

“Some cried,” the employee told SVT. “For 24 years the magazine has been around, now it is no longer there. It’s unpleasant, of course.”

Metro employees told SVT that production had already stopped today, but the decision would not be made public until Monday.

Another employee revealed to Swedish newspaper Expressen that Metro staff were not supposed to find out about the closure until next week.

“We found out about the closure decision at one o’clock today. First, a rumor spread in the office and the editorial staff. So we went and asked a manager who confirmed that Metro.se will be closed down,” the employee told Expressen.

“We’ll get the official message on Monday. We weren’t supposed to find out today.”

Ulrika Hyllert, chairman of Sweden’s Journalists’ Union, told the TT newswire on Friday that Metro had not yet sought negotiations with the Union.

“Our members have not received any comprehensive staff information, and no negotiation request has come to the union. What is available is the information provided to SVT — if that is correct, it is as careless staff management by Metro as before,” Hyllert told TT.

Metro had 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 Metro’s owner Christen Ager-Hanssen indicating to Expressen that Metro could become “100 percent digital” in the near future.

In June 2019, Ager-Hanssen announced his opinion that management should fire all of the newspaper’s journalists as they “no longer fit into [the] business model”.