News Letter editor sets sights on urban readers

The new editor of the News Letter in Belfast, Darwin Templeton, has said that increasing sales in the city centre is one of his main priorities for the paper under his leadership.

Now there is relative peace in Northern Ireland, Templeton believes that hard political stories need to become a less prominent feature of the paper, though the News Letter will be keeping its strong pro-Unionist stance.

Templeton will be looking to attract a younger, more urban readership while keeping its loyal rural readers.

He told Press Gazette: "When bombs were going off and people were being killed it generated an appetite for news, but as a source of stories it is drying up.

What we have to do now is fill the void and make sure people still feel the need to buy newspapers. These are changing times and I would hope to reflect that, but I'm not sure I would go as light as the Belfast Telegraph has gone.

"We have a very loyal hardcore of readers who are predominantly rural based. Belfast sales aren't too good, the city sales aren't as high as we'd like.

"There are two great extremes in Northern Ireland now; the poverty is a relic of the Troubles and the money is a product of the post-Troubles boom and we would want to keep our eye on both those sectors.

"There are people here now who have the same interests as people in Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester. They spend their money, they socialise in the same ways, they like to read about the value of their houses, they are investing in property, buying to let and maybe running their own businesses."

Fears of job losses are looming over the News Letter since the takeover by Johnston Press, and Templeton said that he envisaged the paper would begin sharing content with the 19 other weekly titles in the Morton Newspapers stable.

"It's obvious there's going to have to be some rationalisation. I would look forward to the day that we would be working hand in hand with the weeklies and the rest of the province," he said.

Templeton, who was previously UTV Insight acting editor, replaces Austin Hunter, who left the paper in April after two years, due to health problems.

Hunter took the paper to an eightyear circulation high of 25,957 for the last six months of 2005. The News Letter has since been without an editor.

After joining the Belfast Telegraph as a trainee in 1991, Templeton worked on the Sunday Life where he was news editor, before becoming Northern Ireland correspondent for the News of the World and then The Sun. He then returned to the Belfast Telegraph.

Templeton has won a number of awards including Press Gazette's Scoop of the Year award in 2001. He has a strong background in investigative journalism and won a Royal Television Society Award for his Insight programme on child killer Robert Howard.

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