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National editor laments his old paper's closure

A national newspaper editor has penned a tribute to the paper where he started his career in its final edition published this week.

The Neath Guardian is closing with the loss of 15 jobs after a review of operations by publisher Trinity Mirror.

Its last issue includes a piece written by one of its most famous alumni, Independent editor-in-chief Simon Kelner.

Simon, who started his career on the South Wales weekly 32 years ago, wrote of his sadness at the loss of a title which he said one occupied a “central role” in the life of the town.

“My first job on leaving college was as a trainee reporter with the Neath Guardian. Now, 32 years later, I am saddened by the news that this great town, with its rich history and its sense of civic pride, is to lose its local paper,” he wrote.

“It seems inconceivable that a town whose people thrive on knowing what’s going on, who make it their business to know everyone else’s business, will have no town crier.

“Hard though it may be to believe in this multimedia age, but the Guardian once occupied a central role in the life of the town, and sold (yes, sold) upwards of 10,000 copies a week.

“On a Wednesday (the day the paper came out), I used to walk to the market to get some lunch and it would take me the best part of an hour to walk down Queen Street.

“People would berate me about what I’d written about Neath Rugby Club (‘you must have been at a different game’) or they’d stop me to ask about what was going on in local politics, or invite me to the amateur dramatic production their daughter was starring in.

“It was hard, as a local reporter, not to feel you were playing an important role in the cultural, social and political life of the town. And, even if readers disagreed with what I’d written, they engaged me with respect, spirit and humour.

“A lecturer at college told me that, whatever I achieved in my career, I would always look back on my first job with fondness. And, as I reflect now, I am pleased to say that he’s been proven right.

“I still feel an attachment to the town: when I meet Peter Hain, we are less likely to discuss government policy than the quality of the faggots at the market, and, having the good fortune to interview Katherine Jenkins recently, I astonished her by knowing where Stockham’s Roundabout was.

“And now the Guardian is no more, and it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Neath and its people will be poorer as a result. In the mid-1980s, when the Guardian became a freesheet, I was part of a group who established the Neath Independent, a paid-for paper set up to deliver a quality news service to the town.

“Two weeks after we launched, the miners’ strike started and that, basically, was that. We struggled on for almost nine months, but the economic conditions were stacked against us.

“We felt we were catering for a need – indeed, a thirst – for local news and views, a need that is undeniably still there, but, sadly, won’t now be addressed by the Guardian.

“So, to borrow a phrase beloved of a former Guardian colleague, the paper can today write its own epitaph: the Guardian, born in Neath, bred in Neath and now buried under Neath.”