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Regional Sunday newspaper closes with around 20 jobs set to go

A regional Sunday newspaper has closed after more than 200 years in print – with around 20 people set to lose their jobs as a result.

Staff at the Sunday Independent, which covers the South-West of England, were told this morning that the newspaper had ceased trading.

The paper, which has a particular focus on sport, ran a series of editions covering Cornwall, Plymouth, Devon and Bristol & Somerset and counts Alastair Campbell among its journalistic alumni.

Today’s closure follows the death last August of its proprietor Brian Doel just hours after he had assisted with production of the newspaper’s latest edition.

The last edition of the Sunday Independent, published on 2 April

The last edition of the Sunday Independent, published on 2 April.  The headline was a reference to the Royal Marines rather than the future of the newspaper.

Brian had run the Independent since 2014 after acquiring a 51pc stake in the title from Tindle Newspapers at the same time he stepped down as that company’s managing director.

Editor John Collings, who has been at the helm since 1988, said: “Last Sunday’s Indy was the last one. That is, unless somebody comes over the horizon on a white horse.”

John told Devon Live conditions had been difficult for some time in the local press, but added: “I don’t think we saw this coming. It’s a small staff of about 20 people. They all worked so hard, and we were actually trading well.

“It needs some investment and financial TLC. Without that, we just couldn’t go on.”

According to Devon Live, a firm of accountants is believed to be trying to sell the Independent, which is based in Liskeard, Cornwall.

In October, the Independent received a £2,500 grant from the England and Wales Cricket Board to help supplement its coverage of professional cricket.

Judges for the County Cricket Journalism Awards said they had been impressed by the paper’s in-depth coverage of Somerset, Gloucestershire, Minor County and club cricket in the South-West region.

The paper, formerly based in Plymouth, was once the home of the Mirror Group training scheme, whose graduates include former Tony Blair spin doctor Alastair, now editor-at-large of The New European.

John told HTFP: “Sadly, the decision has been made this morning to stop trading the Sunday Independent as of today – unless something totally unforeseen happens in the next day or so.

“The news has not totally sunk in yet with any of the 20 or so staff, and a host of contributors from Bristol, to Swindon, to Weymouth and all the way down to Land’s End, who we are in the process of contacting. Since the owner’s sudden death last August everyone here has worked tirelessly to keep the Indy going.

“We have, in fact, been trading well in the past year but Brian’s death de-railed our proposals for further investment and growth and, to date, it has not been possible to find some new investors, or someone with the necessary financial TLC, to continue.

“The Indy has been going in some form or other for more than 200 years and, hopefully, someone knows of someone who can ride to our rescue even at this late hour.”

9 comments

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  • April 5, 2017 at 2:19 pm
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    Commenting under my real name: John Noble.
    So saddened by this. The Indy has always been a great paper. I admit I’m biased, having edited it twice (1986-98) and then for ten years until I retired in 2012. It will be a huge loss to the westcountry. The sports service has always been amazing and the paper overall was very popular, winning the edf south west weekly newspaper of the year title back in 2010. In my time(s) it has always been run by a small but hugely dedicated and professional staff, in all departments. Horrible for those who are losing their jobs now. On the journalistic side I would very much like to pay tribute to John Collings and his team including Chris Gray and Stuart Fraser plus some brilliant others from the editorial past including Ken Sheldon, Stuart MacDowall, Arthur Kaye, Tony Carney, Tina Cooper, Kevin Blackadder, Don Morgan, Norma Harris and so very many more. I remain very proud to have worked with them all – and to have worked for The Indy.

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  • April 5, 2017 at 2:33 pm
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    So sad to hear …. for lovers of local sport in the South West, the Indy has been essential reading every Sunday. Awful news for such a loyal, hard-working and dedicated team – ably led by John Collings. Let’s hope a buyer can be found asap.

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  • April 6, 2017 at 6:43 am
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    Another long standing regional paper facing closure although this one isn’t due to crass bad management or failing to keep up with the changing marketplace , let’s hope a white knight buyer can be found soon sobthis establisfed newspaper can continue serving its community
    All good wishes to those facing uncertainty at this time

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  • April 6, 2017 at 12:14 pm
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    Desperately , desperately sad about this. The reason i decided to leave home and head for Plymouth all those years ago was to try and get a training place there thro the Mirror Group training scheme. The memories of Burrington Way, Honicknowle are part of me. And so I really do feel a part of me died with this news. It underlines just how precarious this industry is now. Thoughts with all those affected by this calamitous news, not just for the South West but journalism in general. I do hope a buyer is found. Hats off to my old editor John Noble (above).

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  • April 6, 2017 at 5:56 pm
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    Desperately sad news. A great title providing a great service, gone.

    As a journalist and as a sportsman in the South West I’ll miss it. So will many more.

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  • April 6, 2017 at 9:09 pm
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    sad news for all journos. Sales of many papers are at a frighteningly low level., though not sure about this one.

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  • April 7, 2017 at 8:16 am
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    I remember standing in draughty telephone boxes on gloomy, wet Saturday afternoons phoning sports scores and stories to the Indy back in the 1960s. So sad to see another institution facing closure.

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  • April 7, 2017 at 10:20 am
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    Sad news. A kick in the teeth not only for a fantastic and hardworking team, but also for thousands of readers who relied on the Indy for unrivalled local sports coverage. I was proud to work with some brilliant staff during my time as Editor from 1995 to 1998, when the then Southern Newspapers bought the title. This paper deserves to survive. I hope an investor can be found with the vision to enable the Indy to rise again. Thinking of all staff affected by this shortsighted decision.

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  • April 7, 2017 at 10:50 am
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    A sad day for this bastion of unrivalled sports reporting throughout the Westcountry for many a moon. I was fortunate enough to have worked with both the late Stuart McDowell and Arthur Kay in my formative years as a young ‘tog……..happier days.

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