New question mark over the future of news, as owners of Cornwall newspapers close more local titles

6th December 2016
By Anne North

The company which owns The Cornish Guardian, West Briton and Cornishman newspapers – as well as the Western Morning News and Plymouth Herald – is to close three more local newspapers.

The move will do nothing to ease the anxiety of Cornwall’s journalists, and local newspaper readers, that titles with centuries of history behind them are also at risk. Trinity Mirror has already closed the separate Cornish Guardian, West Briton and Cornishman websites, consolidating them into a controversial county-wide site called CornwallLive.

cornwall-live-launchMany journalists have recently left the company and the CornwallLive site now publishes significantly more trivial “content” - and less news - than previously.

Trinity Mirror is now closing titles in Milton Keynes, Luton and Northampton as part of its continuing purge of newspapers which it bought in a £220million deal last year. The company is pursuing an aggressive strategy of migrating its business online, raising fears about its long-term intentions towards local news. Earlier this year Trinity Mirror closed another newspaper in Nuneaton, having already closed 19 other local titles.

 

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The latest newspapers to face the axe are OneMK (formerly MK News), Luton on Sunday and the Northampton Herald and Post. Six journalists will lose their jobs, to be replaced by a “content” manager. These newspapers, like those in Cornwall, had been part of the Local World group.

Luton on Sunday had a free distribution of 68,000 the last time it was audited by ABC in 2013. The Herald and Post had a circulation of 48,000 in 2013 according to ABC. No circulation figures are available for OneMK. Trinity Mirror is keeping Bedford on Sunday.

According to the National Union of Journalists the titles were closed without consultation.  NUJ national organiser Laura Davison said: “This announcement has come as a bombshell to staff on these titles. Once again Trinity Mirror has announced a shutdown of papers with no consultation with journalists or readers. Local people, democratic bodies and businesses are going to be stripped of a voice and plurality will be massively undermined.

“The company’s actions smack of arrogance. These operations are already run on a shoe string and now more jobs are set to go. It is another big red warning flag hoisted over the crisis in quality local journalism. We urge local people to join our campaign for properly resourced local journalism.

 

“Other Local World centres have been reorganised, merged and staff cut since the Trinity Mirror take over. They have been treated as the poor relation with poverty pay and only statutory minimum redundancy pay outs.”
Trinity Mirror has made widespread cutbacks across the Local World group, closing websites and consolidating editorial teams at several sites. It closed the Nuneaton news in May this year. Last year Trinity Mirror closed 19 local newspapers.

A Trinity Mirror spokesperson told trade journal the UK Press Gazette: “We are closing three free weekly titles in Luton, Milton Keynes and Northampton as part of a review of our portfolio to look at how we best serve our readers and advertisers in these markets.

“We are not exiting these markets but will retain a presence in a different way. We believe there is a better way for us to provide content and commercial solutions for the local communities, for example through a schedule of niche products and awards and events.

“We will also be increasing the focus on Bedfordshire on Sunday which remains as both a print title and website. We will be increasing distribution of this title into Luton and broadening our online coverage.

“The number of roles we require to deliver the new portfolio of products is less than the current structure and as a result the business proposes to reduce the headcount, so unfortunately a number of roles in editorial and commercial are at risk of redundancy as part of these changes.”

  • More than 300 local newspaper titles across the UK have closed in the past 10 years.