An Assembly Member has highlighted fears about the future of Wales’ local newspapers as companies close titles and furlough staff.
Conservative AM David Melding – the Shadow Minister for Media – said he was “concerned” at the risk the pandemic posed to local journalism after learning that one paper – owned by Tindle Newspapers – In his constituency has temporarily closed.
Reach PLC (formerly Trinity Mirror), which owns a number of local titles in Wales including the Western Mail and Daily Post, have also annunced plans to furlough staff.
“It is inevitable that the effects of this pandemic will affect all sectors of industry, and freesheets that are reliant on advertising or paid-for papers that rely on a combination of income streams will not be immune,” David Melding said.
“However, what is concerning me about the closure, albeit temporary, of a local newspaper is that not all people are digitally connected and therefore able to access other news sources. Perhaps especially so in this time of unparalleled uncertainty, the comforting regularity of a weekly newspaper can mean so much.”
Mr Melding added that another problem of furloughing editorial staff is that it can lead to the centralising of resources, staff, and ultimately the focus of news from local to regional.
“Newspapers have had to do this for many years now, pooling editorial resources to cover potentially a wide geographical area, even though the staff may live miles from the paper they are editing or writing for. It is then very difficult to maintain the local touch that makes a newspaper truly community-based,” he said.
“I look forward to readers and proprietors alike supporting these vital publications during and after this pandemic is over.”
It was announced today that some 20pc of all Reach employees will be “furloughed” under the coronavirus job retention scheme which will see the government fund up to 80c of wages.
All members of the company’s board, along with some members of the senior editorial and management teams, will be taking a pay cut of 20pc, while other staff will see pay reduced by 10pc.
The move comes as the Covid-19 outbreak leads to a decrease in advertising revenues.
Reach chief executive Jim Mullen said: “These are very challenging times and I would like to thank all our colleagues at Reach for their support and commitment.
“It remains difficult to predict the duration and long term impact of the crisis on our sector so it is key we take proactive measures now on cost to protect jobs and the Reach business for the long term.”