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April 5, 2017

Cornwall’s Sunday Independent closes after 200 years in print with 20 journalism jobs to go

By Freddy Mayhew

The Sunday Independent, serving the south west, has closed down after more than 200 years with about 20 journalists made redundant as a result.

The Cornwall-based weekly specialised in regional sports coverage, writing about almost 40 different sports for the region with a particular focus on county cricket.

The paper, established in 1808, published four editions covering Devon, Cornwall, Bristol and Plymouth.

Long-serving editor John Collings told Devon Live today: “Last Sunday’s Indy was the last one. That is, unless somebody comes over the horizon on a white horse. I don’t think we saw this coming.”

He added: “It’s a small staff of about 20 people. They all worked so hard, and we were actually trading well. It needs some investment and financial TLC. Without that, we just couldn’t go on.”

The news comes less than a year after Sunday Independent owner Brian Doel died aged 70. He bought a majority (51 per cent) stake in the paper from Tindle Newspapers in 2014.

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “This is really shocking and sad news. It appears the 20 staff who are to lose their jobs were told only today, after putting out Sunday’s edition.

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“This adds to the tally of nine UK regional newspapers which have closed between November 2015 and March 2017 and highlighted in research commissioned by the union for Local News Matters Week.

“It will be tragic for the readers, especially the sports fans, in the south west to lose their newspaper.

“Yet another newspaper closure strengths the NUJ’s case for holding a national inquiry into local news provision in the UK and also for our call for newspapers to have the status of community assets, with new rules to prevent local media outlets from closing overnight, so they can be offered to potential new owners, including local co-operatives.”

Former chief reporter William Telford told Press Gazette: “I was saddened to hear of the closure today. John Collings has been there pretty much his whole career, as far as I’m aware.

“They had a niche for themselves during the last few years doing local level sports coverage very well and I thought that would save them in the current climate, but clearly not.”

Local World, now Trinity Mirror, launched a Sunday edition of the Western Morning News in 2014 that was a direct rival to the Independent (but closed it in January this year).

Telford, who was at the paper from 1992-97, added: “A lot of people thought that would spell the end of the Sunday Independent, but it didn’t. I thought if it could survive that it would keep going.”

Angela Rippon and Andrew Norton are understood to have both worked on the Independent earlier in their careers.

The paper’s former office in Plymouth was once the home of the Mirror Group training scheme which put the likes of Alastair Campbell, now editor-at-large of The New European, through his paces.

The last time the Sunday Independent was audited by ABC in 2003 it had a group circulation of 28,434.

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