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Eight sister titles suspend publication due to coronavirus

Production of eight sister newspapers is to be halted after another regional publisher announced plans to tackle the economic impact of coronavirus.

JPIMedia has revealed it is implementing the measure at the Bedford Times & Citizen, Milton Keynes Citizen, Luton Herald & Post, Brighton & Hove Independent and Mid Sussex Gazette.

Also affected are the News Post Leader and News Guardian, which are published in areas of the North-East of England, and Sussex-based lifestyle publication Etc magazine.

The company is also set to suspend the free-distribution element of paid-for titles the West Sussex Gazette, Crawley Observer, Hemel Gazette and Buckingham Advertiser/Bicester Review.

MK front

However, JPIMedia has also expressed its intention to “retain staff during” the pandemic and will continue to publish online in the areas affected.

JPIMedia’s move comes after both Newsquest and the Midland News Association yesterday announced similar moves to tackle the economic impact felt by COVID-19.

In a message sent to all staff this morning, chief executive David King said: “We have already seen a substantial reduction in advertising as necessary social distancing and free movement restrictions are imposed.

“We have engaged with the government to ensure our key workers can continue to do their vital work, and provide news and information to the public.

“In the short term, as a result of the Government announcement on Monday restricting the free movement of people and closure of retail outlets, we have undertaken a further review of the impact on part of our publishing portfolio.

“Having had conversations with the main distributors of our free titles, we have been informed that they can no longer guarantee the distribution of those papers to households.”

The suspension takes effect next week and will be reviewed in line with any changes to government advice about the movement of people and closure of outlets.

As reported on HTFP yesterday, Newsquest is to temporarily cut staff pay and place some journalists on leave due to the coronavirus pandemic, while the MNA has suspended publication of its free titles and opened a voluntary furlough scheme for all staff.

Added David: “We recognise the important role we play in our communities, providing our readers with vital information at a critical time – and connecting our communities through the news and information we serve. We also recognise the need to support our advertisers. We will continue to update our websites in these markets with relevant information.

“It is also our intention to retain staff during this period and we are carefully exploring how we can use the various Government schemes available to support both the business and our staff.

“We are also engaging with the government to ensure our paid newspapers can continue to be available in supermarkets and local stores.

“I appreciate this is a very worrying time. We have made provision for you to work at home. We continue to operate our print sites with tight restrictions on access and internal movement. Please follow government advice and keep yourself and your family safe.”

4 comments

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  • March 25, 2020 at 11:54 am
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    Well done to them and to all other publishers who have stopped production and delivery of their own series of papers, hopefully all other publishers will follow suit too.
    Majority of the regional groups,if not all, have declared their intention to migrate from print to digital news so the current crisis may present them with an opportunity to do so albeit sooner than they expected.Far better to focus on online news accessible to all than carry on putting out daily and weekly papers so few are interested in any longer

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  • March 25, 2020 at 12:18 pm
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    It’s been less than a week that local newspapers up and down the country proclaimed they would be there in the tough times for their readers…

    “In these difficult days, weeks and perhaps months, our role in providing vital and trusted news and information and publicising good causes of all kinds has never been more vital. And we want to do our part to support the most vulnerable members of our community.”

    And now this.

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  • March 25, 2020 at 12:24 pm
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    It’s no use burying heads in the sand, but this could well be the death knell for very many newspapers. With advertising going into meltdown and circulation very likely to plummet, the outlook is bleak in the extreme.

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  • March 25, 2020 at 12:40 pm
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    Exactly what I thought Percy Hoskins, #thereforyou
    …but only when it suits us

    Words are cheap and as Northender says I too feel many struggling titles will go, some have been limping along well past their sell by dates losing money, readers and credibility for years and no business will be wanting or able to advertise, readers will have found other reliable news sources so putting tired weekly and dailies out of their misery will produce big savings and be the best decision all round.

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