One of the things I have learned as publisher of HoldtheFrontPage is that our readers love stories about newspaper office closures.
There have been a fair few of them of late, and they invariably get good page views.
Johnston Press and to a lesser extent Local World appear to be embarking on a systematic programme of office moves, with the Scarborough News, Yorkshire Post, Portsmouth News, Western Morning News and Stoke Sentinel among the JP and LW titles which either have moved or are in the process of moving offices in the past year or so.
It certainly makes commercial sense, particularly where reductions in the size of newspaper staffs have turned the old buildings into white elephants, but inevitably arouses a certain sense of wistfulness among the journalists who once worked there.
Take the Yorkshire Post, for instance, whose former building at Wellington Street, Leeds, is now likely to be demolished and the site redeveloped.
Even this monument to 1960s “brutalist” architecture, with its windowless newsroom dubbed “the bunker” has its fans, if the comments on HTFP and the YP’s own website this week were anything to go by.
At least the YP has had the good sense to stay in Leeds city centre with its new base at nearby Whitehall, but some other titles have moved farther away from their city or town centres.
I think that’s a missed opportunity. If offices are going to close – and given the changes in the industry that is inevitable – publishers should at least see it as a chance to bring titles closer to the people they are trying to reach.
To my mind, The Sentinel is a good example of a newspaper that has done this.
Its old base at Etruria, which also contained a now-defunct print works, was rather out of the way but it is now moving to a new HQ within Stoke’s ‘cultural quarter’ in Hanley which will put it within easy reach of The Potteries Museum, Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court, Hanley Police Station, the new £15m Hanley Bus Station and the new £41m city council headquarters.
This, surely, is the way ahead for other regional titles who moved out of cramped old city centre premises for huge business park developments in the 80s and 90s only to find themselves stuck with thousands of square feet of unused office space.
If more of them could follow The Sentinel’s example, then more office closures would surely be no bad thing. And not just for our page views.