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Weekly set for revamp as district offices close

A weekly newspaper is to raise its cover price from 70p to £1 this week as part of a wide-ranging revamp which has also seen the closure of two of its district offices.

The Wiltshire Gazette & Herald’s office in Devizes closed last week, bringing to an end a 195-year presence in the town, while the paper’s Chippenham office is also understood to be closing.

All reporters and photographers on the Newsquest-owned title will now work out of the company’s Trowbridge offices where sports and advertising staff are already based.

The move comes ahead of a relaunch of the title later this week which will see the introduction of a new family section and increased arts coverage.

Editor Gary Lawrence has so far not responded to queries about the office closures.

However he outlined the plans for the relaunch in a first-person piece published in the current edition of the paper headlined: “You asked and we listened – your Gazette will have a new look next week.”

Wrote Gary:  “Just before Christmas we invited our readers to take part in a series of focus groups to discuss the Gazette & Herald.

“We had three sessions in Devizes and Chippenham at which a good cross section of our readership told us, in no uncertain terms, what they loved and loathed about their favourite weekly newspaper.

“The readers who came to the focus panels told us they love the fact the news is so local and there is so much of it. But there were some things they want to see more of, or done better.

“Accordingly, from next Thursday, you’ll see some changes.

“We’ll have an opinion section housing letters and guest columnists. The MPs’ columns will also move there. We will introduce a new family section with columnist Fiona Scott writing about parenting, health, education and consumer issues.

“We will expand our theatre and arts coverage, increase our food pages and give more space to music and the gig guide.

“Undoubtedly the most controversial change will be the price increase from 70p to £1. That’s a big leap I know. But it is a recognition of the fact that many of the advertising revenues which effectively subsidised quality local journalism are receding.

“If we want to maintain our high standards and provide high quality, comprehensive coverage across a huge and varied geographical area then we must charge a fair price for it.”

The Gazette & Herald’s Marlborough office, where ‘Tamworth Two’ journalist Nigel Kerton was formerly based, closed in October 2011 after 100 years.

Gary, who is also editor of the Swindon Advertiser, is himself based mainly in Swindon while the paper is produced from Newsquest’s centralised subbing hub in Oxford.

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