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Newspaper issues cash plea in bid to maintain free news service

A local newspaper has warned it may have to begin charging readers unless it receives a £30,000 cash injection following the “severe impact” of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Downs Mail, which circulates fortnightly in the Maidstone and Malling area of North Kent, is appealing for reader donations in order to maintain its “core belief” of providing a free news service.

The title, which was launched in 1997, says it has been hit with “reduced revenues” due to Covid-19 alongside what is set to be a “steep increase” in the cost of newsprint.

The Mail says it costs more than £55,000 annually to print and distribute the paper, as well as around £14,400 each year to keep its companion news website updated daily.  However the crowdfunding appeal has so far raised just £648 towards its target.

Downs Mail

An accompanying editorial states: “Over the years we have become a trusted, loved and respected community-based newspaper. And our core belief is that community news should be free for all its readers.

“Despite many pressures over Downs Mail’s quarter of a century, we have managed to resist any pressure to charge you for the news service we provide.

“However, Covid still has a severe impact on our advertisers. Many are small businesses, like us, and this has currently substantially reduced our key source of income – advertising revenue.

“In addition to reduced revenues, the cost of the paper we are printed on has risen sharply with two price rises this year with another steep increase due in January, estimated to be around 30pc.”

“As a small family-run business, we have had to dig deep into limited reserves as Government grants and support for our publishing sector were restricted, barely covering running costs for the first month of lockdown.

“To enable us to continue to provide good, quality journalism and for the newspapers and website to remain free of charge we are asking for your help, by making a donation so Downs Mail remains a community asset and still free to all.”

The appeal had been due to conclude last Friday but was then extended for a further week.

Similar donation drives have been launched since the pandemic began by publishers and titles including Archant, the Liverpool Echo and the South London Press.