Coronanvirus-induced slump in advertising revenues blamed for killing off Atherstone-only newspaper ‘for the foreseeable future’

  Posted: 11.04.20 at 18:33 by Nick Hudson

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BRITAIN’S biggest regional publisher has made a plea to carry on supporting a Tamworth-titled newspaper after blaming a business-closure-induced slump in advertising sparked by Covid-19 lockdown for killing off its Atherstone edition.

Reach plc announced the effective closure of the Atherstone & Coleshill Herald along with other titles in Lichfield and Sutton Coldfield – just weeks after Nub News arrived in town.

It will be the first time that Atherstone has not had a proper newspaper to call its own since the launch of the Leamington Courier series and Atherstone Gazette in 1828.

The sad announcement, signalling another nail in the coffin of local print titles, was delivered on page 3 of this week’s edition with editor Charlotte Hart explaining any Atherstone news will have to be accommodated in a “slimmed-down” version of a Tamworth title which has been in existence for more than 150 years.

There was more than a touch of irony in the timing as on page 17 of this week’s Herald a full-page advertisement had been taken out by Britain’s regional press saying local newspapers had “never been more important than now”.

Making headlines: Front page of the last Atherstone-only edition?

The advertisement went on: “We are there to support the communities we are a part of, through the good times and the bad.

“We want you to know that in these testing times we are #ThereWithYou.”

Ms Hart’s closure notice spoke of “working tirelessly to keep you informed” through coronavirus, adding: “Unfortunately, because a lot of businesses that advertise their services with us have had to stop trading, we have seen a dramatic fall in our revenue.

“Because of this, it is with a very heart that we have had to make some changes to your Herald, for the foreseeable future.”

She said there would “no separate edition” for Atherstone and Coleshill from next week which “will help us keep our printing costs down during a very uncertain future”, adding: “We are also working with a skeleton staff.”

The paper was once a minimum 120 pages in the 1980s and 1990s. This week’s edition was half that size – at 60 pages – and Ms Hart had more bad news for readers with future editions “going down in size”, sports pages decreased and generic pages normally shared across a number of titles being pulled.

“The paper will feel smaller but it will still be crammed full of local news about your town and community,” she said.

This week’s paper contained one Atherstone-only news story.

She then made a plea to her dwindling print readership to “keep supporting us during these difficult times, so that we can keep supporting our communities.”

And finally added: “The Herald will continue to be on sale in the shops every week – if you’re popping out for your essentials, please think about picking up a copy.”

Atherstone Nub News editor Nick Hudson, a former chief reporter and news editor of the Herald in what was considered to be its circulation heyday in the 1970s, said: “This is a sad day for journalism and journalists, for a heritage of founding newspaper proprietors who wanted to put something back into the community and more especially for the town and its people – losing a ‘friend’ they expected to be there to report through the good times and bad.

“I hope the advent of Nub News with old fashioned principles of local reporting while embracing all the brilliant advantages of a modern digital age of publishing will fill that void left by a no ‘Atherstone-only’ news outlet in printed form.

“If you’re arriving at on our news site for the first time, why not take a look back at what’s been happening in your town over the last nine weeks.

“There are more than 250 stories to browse through.

“We are living through incredibly scary times and all that we can hope for is to get to the other side of coronavirus, unscathed. “

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