April 6, 2017 Last Updated 2:37 pm

Big newspapers get noticed when there are layoffs, the small one simply slip away, never to return

The Sunday Independent, a newspaper that has served SW England since 1808, is being shuttered, and with it 20 jobs will be lost – that is, unless a white knight can be found

It is always a sad thing to hear of another newspaper closing. Like a death in the family. A big newspaper closing is pretty rare, they simply layoff staff until they might as well become a bureau, like what Gannett seems to be doing nationwide. Small papers, on the other, are dying regularly. In my neck of the woods, with newspapers trading hands between one northside owner and another, the small tabloids that served individual communities are going away, to be replaced by bland regional papers that simply don’t have the time to cover the local board meeting, let alone to make sure the Friday football scores are correct.

In the UK, the Sunday Independent, which serves Cornwall, has closed – and with it 20 jobs will be lost. The paper has been around since 1808, but last August the owner died. Accountants are reportedly working to see if they can sell the paper to keep it going, but I am sure that will be difficult. The reality is that rival papers will see this as a good thing in so far as less competition might lead to a small bump in ad pages. No one wants to see a paper die, even rivals, but that’s business, right?

For readers and journalists, as well as others in the business, it is hard to see any upside to a closing. I remember being the publisher of a trade magazine that had to fight for its life when a rival stole away much of the sales staff. I came in and recruited a new one, one that might look at the business with fresh eyes. It worked and soon we dominated the industry. But things got a little too good and at one point I instructed my staff to stop selling against the rival, only for ourselves. I didn’t want the rival to go out of business, and certainly didn’t want to be accused of driving them out.

“This is really shocking and sad news,” Laura Davison, national organizer at the National Union of Journalist, said of the closing. “It appears the 20 staff who are to lose their jobs were told only today, after putting out Sunday’s edition. This adds to the tally of nine UK regional newspapers which have closed newspapers 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.”

The NUJ wants the UK to consider local newspapers 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.” It’s hard to see that occurring in either the UK or US where conservative governments are loath to see government interfere in the all mighty marketplace. In fact, assuming the new president’s budget gets approved, we may be seeing the end of public broadcasting in the US, and with it the loss of quite a number of local stations that serve rural communities.

Mousehole – Cornwall by Frans Schouwenburg used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

I have told, by someone far away, with the same last name as mine, that I might be Cornish. I’ve never visited Cornwall, though I am sure I will one day. So, of course, I was a little saddened to hear that the Sunday Independent was to be shuttered. But then again I have worked for newspapers owned by Hearst, Copley, MediaNews Group and McGraw-Hill that have all been shuttered by the owners, thankfully long after I had left their employment. I’ve never shuttered a publication myself, at least not without replacing it with something bigger and better. But then again, times have changed, and I am no longer publishing a newspaper or magazine.

It is a sad thing to shutter a publication.

“We have been overwhelmed by the amount of love and affection that exists for our newspaper,” editor John Collings wrote online. “To staff, freelances & contributors: thanks so much for all you have done.”

But maybe things here can be turned around, certainly the editor hasn’t given up:

“And finally: if there’s somebody on a white charger with 5 noughts in his or her back pocket… call Stephen Hobson on 01392 667 000.”

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