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July 26, 2017

Warning of ‘real crisis’ for London’s news coverage after sudden closure of three weeklies – Sadiq Khan urged to take action

By Freddy Mayhew

The sudden closure of three north London newspapers this week has created a “real crisis” in terms of news coverage in the capital, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has warned.

Tindle Newspapers has decided to stop publishing the Enfield Advertiser & Gazette, Haringey Advertiser and Barnet Press with six editorial jobs lost as a result, Press Gazette revealed today.

Séamus Dooley, NUJ acting general secretary, described news of the closures as “a cruel blow”. The union is now calling on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to take action to support local media in London.

The London Assembly Economy Committee is undertaking an inquiry into local news provision within the capital that is expected to deliver a report later this year.

The Tindle closures come a week after Capital Media Newspapers – owners of the South London Press (SLP), Greenwich Mercury and a handful of weekly titles in west London – went into administration.

A buyer for the SLP and Mercury has been found, but the Kensington & Chelsea News, Fulham Chronicle, Hammersmith Chronicle and Shepherd’s Bush Chronicle remain in adminstration and facing permanent closure.

The Kensington & Chelsea News covers the estate in which Grenfell Tower is based. Residents there claimed their concerns over fire safety went unheard before the blaze that left 80 people dead, or missing feared dead, and destroyed the tower block, leaving survivors homeless.

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In September last year, regional publisher Newsquest placed 27 out of 29 editorial staff on notice as it looked to cut 11 journalism roles at its offices in Sutton, affecting 11 weekly newspapers covering south London.

The cuts have left 12 reporters and four content editors producing 11 newspapers and eight websites and “eradicated” its sports desk.

NUJ boss Dooley said: “With Newsquest running local newspapers in south London on a skeleton staff, the loss of journalists’ jobs in the north has created a real crisis in terms of coverage of news and democratic bodies in the capital.

“The recent devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, which occurred despite the residents raising concerns about safety, showed just how vital it is for communities to have a watchdog in their local newspaper.”

Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “The crisis in the capital’s local newspapers was highlighted by the recent London Assembly enquiry into local news.

“Further loss of titles will reduced media plurality and choice and have a severe impact on the coverage of democratic and public bodies. The continuing loss of journalistic jobs in our capital city is unacceptable.

“We have repeatedly called on the government to convene a short sharp enquiry into the crisis facing local news.”

A parliamentary debate on the future of local news in the UK was held in March, during which Helen Goodman MP called for a government inquiry into the state of local media.

Picture: Pixabay

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