Alan Rusbridger: 'Major cities could be left without news'

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has predicted that a number of cities in the UK could be left without their own newspaper as recession looms.

Speaking on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning, Rusbridger said the advertising downturn would continue to be felt by the local press in 2009.

“I think we have to face up to the prospect that for the first time since the Enlightenment you’re going to have major cities in the UK and western democracies without any kind of verifiable source of news.

“That hasn’t happened for two or 300 years and it’s going to have very profound implications.”

Asked if any national newspapers were likely to close, Rusbridger added: “I think there may be a thinning out, I fear, because the next two years are just going to be so expensive.”

Andreas Whittam-Smith, the founding editor of the Independent, said the risk to all newspapers in a recession was great.

He pointed to the Independent’s deal with Daily Mail and General Trust to share back-office facilities as an example of how groups needed to work together.

“I think that newspapers in these hard times will have to do what other groups do, which is share facilities which the customers don’t see,” he told Today.

“There is no question that there are going to be casualties. It’s a question of getting through an extraordinary two, three, four years.”

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