Sad week as seven newspapers close
19 December 2014
It was a sad week for journalism as seven Trinity Mirror newspapers closed, including the Reading Post and the 159-year-old Harrow Observer, with more than 50 staff losing their jobs.
Michelle Stanistreet, National Union of Journalists general secretary, said on Wednesday, the last day of the Reading Post:
"It is a really sad day. The closure of this award-winning and popular newspaper makes absolutely no sense to the readers or the dedicated journalists and staff who have been serving their local community with news, features, gossip, information and the trials and triumphs of the town's football club for many years.
"Trinity Mirror's blinkered new plans to make Berkshire a 'digital-only zone' is not what the readers want. It is also a callous way to treat journalists who have been doing a good job."
Lesley Potter, the editor of the Reading Chronicle, the only newspaper left serving the 240,000 population, echoed her view, saying it was a sad day for the staff and families of those who had worked on the Post, adding:
“It is also a sad day for the people of Reading to lose the Reading Post. We have been fierce rivals over the years, but we have always had a healthy respect for one another. However Trinity Mirror have made their own decision and that is very much up to them."
Ed Walker, the publisher of getreading.co, said on the day Get Reading closed:
"So today is both a goodbye and a big hello from getreading, as it prepares to go into warp speed online. The average adult in the UK who owns a smartphone (such as an iPhone) unlocks their phone more than 100 times a day, and by early 2015 the percentage of adults with a smartphone is set to pass 80 per cent. Look under the Christmas tree this year and you’ll find another explosion of iPads, Kindles and various other tablets waiting to be unwrapped."
Michelle Stanistreet said:
"The National Union of Journalists is deeply concerned that the closure of these seven Trinity Mirror titles comes on top of the relentless cuts to journalist jobs and closure of other newspapers throughout this year.
"Yes, the industry is changing and has to adapt if most people want to receive their news on their tablet or phone. But what we are seeing is newspaper jobs going and cut-to-the-bone digital operations being created. The managers and proprietors are being upfront in saying they expect most of their copy and photographs to be provided free from readers.
"This means courts are not being covering, council meetings are not being reported and other public bodies, schools and businesses are not being held to account. Each town in the UK needs a choice of newspapers and websites, plus good, local investigative journalism. That is why we are calling for a national inquiry into the local press."
The other papers which ceased publication this week were the Wokingham and Bracknell Times, Surrey Herald, Surrey Times and Woking Informer and Get Reading.
Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said:
"Trinity Mirror spent longer deciding to shut down these historic titles than they have consulting with the staff who have worked so hard on and cared so much about them. It shows a total lack of confidence in the company’s plan that some journalists who have not been accepted for voluntary redundancy have simply resigned.
"The company has accepted they won’t be able to get the breadth and depth of content in future and will be concentrating on topics that generate hits. They’re prepared to spend tens of thousands to drive people to websites which not everyone can access, but retaining and investing in experienced, knowledgeable staff who produce quality content is off the agenda.
"Staff who remain will be scattered or be working from offices you can book by the hour. The lack of vision or clarity on how the new structure will work practically, even in the transitional phase, leaves those staying on in limbo, as colleagues and even offices vanish around them."
Last week, Local World closed the Burton Advertiser free-sheet and the paid-for Uttoxeter Post and Times will close next month.
The NUJ has called for a national inquiry into the future of local papers.