A weekly editor whose paper’s town centre office is closing this week has told readers it can do without one in future.
Editor John Francis has told readers that the paper will do without an HQ for the time being, saying it doesn’t need one.
John said advances in technology now meant reporters and other staff no longer needed a physical office and would be armed with a “high-tech box of tricks” enabling them to operate from anywhere.
The paper’s office in Marlowes are set to be redeveloped as part of a major project which will see it become home to Dacorum Borough Council staff.
They had previously been put up for sale by JP for £350,000 as part of its nationwide property sell-off.
Wrote John “Where will our new office be, you might ask. Well, for now at least we haven’t got one – because we just don’t need it.
“Like many other organisations, we’ve realised that maintaining expensive town centre offices doesn’t make sense any more.
“Our printers haven’t been anywhere near the town for decades, many other departments have been centralised in recent years because it’s more efficient, and for more than a year our advertising team has been spending the bulk of its time where it should be – with our customers, rather than sitting in an office.
“That’s what we’re planning to do as well, because developments in technology over the past five years mean that we don’t need a physical office to stay close to the community we serve.
“Each member of our editorial team has a high-tech box of tricks that allows them to file copy, take pictures or record video, update our website and even send pages to press from wherever they are.
“You can get in touch with them wherever they are, too – they don’t need to be in a particular place to pick up the post any more.
“Most of the time they’ll be working in Hemel Hempstead, of course, so we will be getting together – at locations like community centres, where we will be able to touch base with each other and be available to readers who want to drop in and tell us what’s going on.
“We may not be in the town centre, but we will still be very much right at the heart of the town.”
Ahead of the move, the Gazette also published the memories of a former employee at its print works, who said the office closure was “the end of an era”.
John Newberry joined the Gazette and West Herts News in 1952 as an apprentice compositor and visited the papers’ base regularly, which was then a “Victorian monstrosity”, although the print works was based elsewhere in the town.
He wrote: “Although the Gazette printing works was based at Bury Mill End at that time, my job did involve visits to the Gazette office in Marlowes to pick up copy from the journalists and adverts from the advertising department.
“The office building at Warwick House, 39 Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead was one of those rather drab Victorian monstrosities which was, no doubt, originally a family home latterly converted into offices.
“The company was jointly owned and managed by the Needham brothers, Douglas at the offices and Lionel at the printing works.
“The editor at the time was a Mr Brown whose name was perfectly apt as he was of a brownish complexion due to his very heavy nicotine habit.
“One of the junior reporters there was a friend of mine, Roger Tilleray, and Roger and I went on many a jaunt in the course of his job which often involved evenings and weekends.”
John carried out a seven-year apprenticeship at the “Dickensian” print works and later became an applications specialist for an American company which produced computerised typesetting equipment.