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Newspaper would be ‘dead in the water’ without government help, says founder

An independent newspaper’s founder says he title would have been “dead in the water” if it had not received emergency government coronavirus funding.

Richard Gurner has spoken out about the effects the pandemic has had on the Caerphilly Observer, saying it remains a “very scary time” for his business.

The Observer was one of eight Welsh members of the Independent Community News Network to be awarded emergency grant revenue funding by the Welsh government in April, while it also received a grant from Google.

HTFP reported last week how the Gosport & Fareham Sunday Globe, which was “turned down” for similar funding by the UK government, had closed down after almost six years in business.

Caerphilly lockdown

Richard told ICNN: “Without money from the Welsh government’s emergency grant revenue fund, and the Google Digital News Initiative we’d be dead in the water.

“But that just helped pay our salaries for a month or two. After that, we really struggled.

“But my philosophy has always been: if there is money in the bank to pay the bills, I’ll keep the Observer going.”

After the nationwide lockdown came into effect in March, the Observer furloughed its sales staff and reduced its print run to 10,000 issues.

However, it experienced a boost in web traffic ad the number of unique visitors increases from 81,000 in February to 95,000 in March.

In July the Observer website recorded 108,000 unique visitors to website, a record for the title.

Richard added: “At the start of the national lockdown back in March, I wrote that we can get through it together and everything will be alright in the end.

“I still firmly believe that, but we must all play our part in lifting the gloom.”

You can read all our coronavirus-related stories here.