A regional daily newspaper has ceased production after 163 years with the majority of its 49 staff being made redundant.
KPMG has announced two of its staff have been appointed joint administrators of Hirst, Kidd and Rennie Limited, the company that produces the Oldham Evening Chronicle.
Following the appointment, production of the Chronicle and its companion publications has ceased, with KPMG saying “regrettably” the majority of the company’s 49 staff have been made redundant.
The move also affects monthly free titles the Oldham Extra, Saddleworth Extra, Tameside Extra and the Dale Times, and quarterly A4 magazines Oldham Business Edge, The Knowledge and Primary Knowledge.
The Chronicle was first published in 1854 and was one of the few regional dailies still printed on the day of publication rather than overnight.
The administrators are to seek a buyer for the paper, but efforts so far have been unsuccessful.
Paul Flint, partner at KPMG and joint administrator with his colleague Jonathan Marston, said: “The company was faced with an increasing deficit in its defined benefits pension scheme in addition to the challenging trading conditions arising from the changing nature of the local media landscape.
“Unfortunately despite a rigorous sales process, a buyer for this long standing paper has not been found and it’s not commercially viable to continue operating.
“We will work to ensure all employees receive the maximum levels of practical and financial support through the redundancy process.
“We are also seeking buyers for the assets of the business, including the newspaper title to try and ensure its heritage will be preserved and continued.”
Staff were told of the paper’s closure after being summoned to a meeting yesterday and understood to be going into the office today to pick up their personal belongings.
John Gilder, one of the Chronicle’s longest-serving journalists, said the news had come as a “huge shock”.
John, who had worked with the paper since 1981, told the BBC: “It will be sadly missed. It generates a lot of chat among local people.
“Before I found out, I popped into the shop and bought a copy without knowing it was the last one. I like reading a physical newspaper but very sadly it’s no more.”
Chris Morley, Northern and Midlands organiser for the National Union of Journalists, said: “This dreadful news came as a bolt from the blue to our members and they were given no inkling about what they would be told when summoned to a meeting.
“There are big questions as to how a significant daily newspaper can be allowed to go under in this way and leave so many staff without a livelihood.
“It is also surprising that such a respected title as the Chronicle would not be of interest to other companies that we know have money available and have talked about consolidation in the industry.
“I would invite potential buyers to step in quickly to preserve the key assets of the paper – namely its crucial journalistic talent with the experience of serving the people of Oldham with distinction for so many years.
“The union will be assessing how best we can help our members who have been clinically dismissed with no notice or consultation.
“We shall be seeking urgent discussions with the administrators to find out what efforts are being made to save the title and provide the best outcome for our members.”
Chronicle editor Dave Whaley has declined to comment at this time.