Thousands lose local newspapers as titles cut
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”.
Findon village in West Sussex. Several titles in the area will no longer have a print edition