One of the minority of local newspapers to increase sales year on year is facing the closure of its office – prompting a backlash from readers via Facebook.
Parent company Archant is proposing to close the offices of the Exmouth Journal and the Sidmouth Herald – and to move their journalists to Exeter.
The move is expected to result in five receptionist staff losing their jobs and affect seven journalists. For the Exmouth journalists the change will mean making a 25-mile round trip to cover their patches.
The Exmouth Journal is believed to have had an office in the town it covers for over a hundred years.
Over the last three years it has increased its paid-for sale from 7,544 to 8,375.
The Sidmouth Herald has a paid-for sale of 6,769 – and stayed solidly at around that figure for more than a decade.
The Keep the Exmouth Journal Office in Exmouth Facebook group so far has 61 members.
The Town Council is also set to discuss the closure of the office at its next meeting.
The organisers of the Facebook group have urged readers of the Journal to email their concerns to managing director Bernard Driscoll.
His email response to protestors has been posted on Facebook.
In it he says: “Regrettably we find ourselves somewhere ‘between a rock and a hard place’ with regard to our office in Exmouth, and also in Sidmouth.
“The current economic downturn has had a significant effect on advertising revenues, which are the lifeblood of newspapers such as the Journal. Additionally we are faced with the biggest increase in newsprint for 10 years, an increasing diversity of media choice, and the growth of internet services.
“All of these challenges require us to reduce our cost base, maintain the quality of our newspapers and the journalists who produce them, and find sufficient funds to invest in our future. The alternative to not closing the office would be to try and reduce costs elsewhere which would almost certainly mean losing staff, including journalists.
“Although I totally accept that a local office is an ideal facility I would hope that in the event of its closure we would still be able to maintain the closest possible links with the town and its residents.
“Our Exeter office is at Exeter Airport Business Park where a number of journalists and photographers are already based, including Phil Griffin the editor of the Journal, and group editor for all our Devon titles.
“I believe that local newspapers are part of the fabric of local communities and I sincerely hope that closing the office will not change our committment to producing the finest newspaper possible with an interest in all types of stories, big and small.”
But one commenter on the Facebook group said: “This newspaper is bucking the trend throughout the whole of the UK. If its office closes, and the reporters have to relocate to Exeter, it could begin to fail like so many other papers across the country.”