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NUJ dismay as Alpha Group abandons East Antrim communities

16 January 2014

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has described as “a major blow to local community life” the decision of the Alpha Newspaper Group to immediately cease publication of the Carrickfergus Advertiser and the Ballyclare Gazette.

Editorial and advertising staff were advised this week that the titles would cease publication on Friday.

Barry McCall, NUJ president, said the announcement “marked another sad chapter in the history of regional journalism”, noting that the Carrickergus Advertiser was founded in 1883 and was one of the best known papers in Northern Ireland. The Ballyclare Gazette was founded in 1991.

“Two of the three titles in the East Antrim Gazette division of Alpha are to close with no apparent regard for the impact of the decision on the staff or local communities. This is a blow to the life of the local communities in these towns and the East Antrim region. I hope other options could be considered. We have witnessed far too many communities being left devoid of locally edited titles reflecting the news in their own area.
"The Carrickfergus Advertiser was founded in 1883 and has survived through periods of great turbulence. The paper was acquired by the Alpha Group in 1991. The Groups own website makes a compelling case for retention of the Advertiser, describing the newspaper as ‘a very popular paper with all sections of the community throughout the Borough of Carrickfergus'.
"The business case for retaining both titles is also captured on the website, which notes that Carrickfergus is ‘an historic borough with a significant tourist industry reinforced with a new leisure boat marina’. The company also identifies East Antrim as ‘a major growth area of Northern Ireland with many new residential developments in Carrickfergus and Ballyclare.’
"In this context it is disappointing that the group, which is headed by Lord Kilclooney, should decide to close down such significant newspapers rather than embarking on strategic investment in the East Antrim Gazette series of papers.”

Lord Kilclooney (John Taylor) was deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party from 1995 to 2001.

Nicola Coleman, NUJ Irish organiser, said the staff, an editor, three reporters, two photographers and two advertising representatives, have been advised that they will receive only statutory redundancy entitlements, with no opportunity for redeployment.

“It is extremely regrettable that the company has decided on further closures and redundancies without negotiations. This mirrors our experience of Alpha Newspapers in the Republic of Ireland, where a swathe of regional titles were eliminated in one fell swoop.”

Bob Miller, Belfast and district branch chair, said news of the closures was a major disappointment to journalists in Northern Ireland:

“Lord Kilclooney has an intimate knowledge of Antrim and is aware of the importance of the role these newspapers play in the community and civic life of East Antrim. The loss of both newspapers is significant but the closure of the Carrickergus Advertiser, a historic newspaper in a town steeped in history is especially poignant.”

Tags: , newspapers, closure, alpha newspaper group, carrickfergus advertiser, carrickfergus, ballyclare gazette, ballyclare, east antrim