Thou­sands lose lo­cal news­pa­pers as ti­tles cut

The Guardian - - News Coronaviru­s - Jim Water­son

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple are to lose ac­cess to a lo­cal print news­pa­per, as the eco­nomic im­pact of the coro­n­avirus starts to de­stroy parts of the strug­gling me­dia in­dus­try.

JPI Me­dia, which owns dozens of ti­tles, told staff yes­ter­day that all of its free news­pa­pers de­liv­ered door-todoor would tem­po­rar­ily stop print­ing due to the chal­lenges of ar­rang­ing de­liv­ery, along­side the col­lapse in the lo­cal ad­ver­tis­ing mar­ket.

The move will cut off many self­iso­lat­ing older read­ers from a trusted source of news dur­ing the cri­sis.

The govern­ment has made clear that it con­sid­ers re­porters and print news­pa­per dis­tri­bu­tion staff as key work­ers dur­ing the cri­sis, due to the im­por­tance of get­ting ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion to peo­ple’s homes.

Last week, many of JPI’s news­pa­pers ran front pages pledg­ing to sup­port their com­mu­ni­ties dur­ing the pan­demic and pro­vide ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion, but the fi­nan­cial and lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges have be­come too much.

News­pa­pers that will cease print pub­li­ca­tion from next week in­clude the Bed­ford­shire Times & Cit­i­zen, the

MK Cit­i­zen, the Lu­ton Her­ald & Post, Northum­ber­land’s News Post Leader, the Brighton & Hove In­de­pen­dent, North Ty­ne­side’s News Guardian, and the Mid Sus­sex Gazette. They were col­lec­tively sent to hun­dreds of thou­sands of homes and in many cases were the only news­pa­pers in their ar­eas. The West Sus­sex Gazette, Craw­ley Ob­server, Hemel Gazette, and Buck­ing­ham Ad­ver­tiser will also dras­ti­cally cut their cir­cu­la­tions.

JPI Me­dia said it in­tended to re­tain jour­nal­ists at the non-print­ing out­lets to run web­sites. How­ever, the de­ci­sion to cease print­ing raises ques­tions about how long this can be sus­tained, given that sources have sug­gested dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue was al­ready min­i­mal at many of these out­lets. In­stead they re­lied heav­ily on in­come from print ad­ver­tis­ing, which has tum­bled as small busi­nesses cut spend­ing.

Staff were told JPI was “carefully ex­plor­ing how we can use the various govern­ment schemes avail­able to sup­port both the busi­ness and our staff ”.

It in­tends to con­tinue to pro­duce its paid-for news­pa­pers sold at su­per­mar­kets and newsagents dur­ing the cri­sis.

The im­pact on the al­ready strug­gling lo­cal news in­dus­try has been swift. Free news­pa­pers re­ly­ing on print ad­ver­tis­ing are par­tic­u­larly badly hit. Lon­don’s City AM has ceased print pub­li­ca­tion and the Evening Stan­dard has re­sorted to door-to-door de­liv­ery in the ab­sence of com­muters.

On Tuesday, Newsquest, an­other of the UK’s big­gest lo­cal news­pa­per groups, told its staff they would all be hav­ing an im­me­di­ate pay cut and said many­would have to take un­paid leave.

Newsquest – which owns more than a hun­dred ti­tles – told staff se­vere cuts were on the way. They said they had al­ready seen “very sig­nif­i­cant de­clines in our rev­enue, par­tic­u­larly from ad­ver­tis­ing, as many of our cus­tomers can­cel or put their plans on hold”.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: LINDA KENNEDY/ALAMY

Fin­don vil­lage in West Sus­sex. Sev­eral ti­tles in the area will no longer have a print edi­tion

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