Closure of Newry Reporter is another ‘Canary in the coal mine’ moment

  • 11 Jan 2023

The announcement today that the Newry Reporter is to close its doors later this month, will pierce the very heart of the town, the NUJ has said.

The Reporter began publishing in 1867 and is based in a town that straddles two counties – Armagh and Down.

Edward Hodgett Limited, owner of the newspaper, sold off its title Banbridge Chronicle last year.

Ian McGuinness, NUJ Irish organiser, called on Irish and British governments and administrations to give local newspapers asset of community value status, which would allow local communities the opportunity to take over papers if they are scheduled to close. Asset of community status value is a core part of the NUJ’s News Recovery Plan published in 2020.

He said:

“The loss of the newspaper is a blow to Newry and diminishes media diversity in the area. Media plurality is vital in any democracy.

“This is yet another canary in the coal mine moment for local newspapers, but the politicians are repeatedly blind to these warning signs. Sadly, the Newry Reporter wasn’t the first local newspaper to stop publishing, and it definitely won’t be the last, unless politicians wake up and take immediate action to preserve their local papers.

“While this will pierce the very heart of Newry – with community groups, charities, voluntary bodies, sports teams, unions, businesses, festivals etc all depending on the coverage given to them by this newspaper – on an even broader front, it is yet another blow to democracy. Every local newspaper that closes results in less, or no, coverage of local councils or local politics.

“During the pandemic, local newspapers were vital in countering conspiracy theories and informing the local population about Covid. As with the NHS staff, there was praise from many politicians for the work done by journalists but no follow up by any British or Irish government or administration. Applause and praise are cheap, what counts is action.

“Politicians might ignore the closure of the Newry Reporter because it is not in their constituency but, if it hasn’t happened already, some day the next local paper to close will be the one they depend on to cover the stories that are important to their constituents.

“Unless politicians immediately embrace the proposals in the NUJ’s News Recovery Plan, the future for many local newspapers in bleak, and so too is the future of local democracy.”

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