Alpha to close three newspapers in Irish Midlands
31 August 2010
The Alpha Newspaper Group is forcing the immediate closure of three local newspapers in the Irish Midlands. The Group, which is owned by Lord Kilclooney, former Ulster Unionist MP, has targeted iconic titles the Longford News and the Roscommon Champion, as well as the new title, the Athlone Voice.
The NUJ has accused the Group of acting with indecent haste. Management informed staff of the immediate closure of the three titles today, after this week's editions had gone to press.
It is understood that up to 40 jobs will go with the closure. Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary, said that staff were called to meetings to discuss the "re-organisation" of the newspaper group in the region.
Jonathan Taylor, Alpha Newspaper Group Managing Director, advised workers that the papers would cease production immediately. Jonathan Taylor has failed to return calls from Nicola Coleman, Irish Organiser. The NUJ has strongly protested at the lack of consultation or examination of alternatives to closure.
Nicola Coleman said:
"We are anxious to meet Jonathan Taylor to discuss redundancy terms. We also believe that it would be easier to sell the titles as a going concern and feel the decision to simply cease publication is extremely short-sighted."
Séamus Dooley said:
"The Athlone Voice is a new title in a difficult market. The Roscommon Champion and the Longford News are long established titles and form an important part of the landscape of the Midlands. The closure of the newspapers represents a blow to media diversity as well as a significant blow to the economy of the Midlands.
"Alpha Newspapers entered the market in the South fully aware of the tough competition in the region. They failed to invest in editorial resources and made massive demands on staff, whose loyalty has certainly not been rewarded.
"Jonathan Taylor called meetings today, which were deliberately timed so that the newspapers could not carry news of their own demise. It is not too late to save the newspapers and we would urge Lord Kilclooney and his board to take a step back, even at this stage. We would also urge local politicians to use their influence with Lord Kilclooney at this crucial time."
Séamus Dooley added that, as a former Editor of the Roscommon Champion, he was acutely aware of the importance of the newspaper to the identity of the region. The Longford News occupies an important role in the life of Longford and next year would have marked the 75th anniversary of the newspaper.
Despite inadequate resources, the Athlone Voice had also carved a niche in the local community.