Northcliffe Media‘s East Kent Gazette published its last edition today after 156 years, amid a reader campaign to save the title from closure.
The Gillingham-based paper splashed with the headline: ‘Goodbye: Wednesdays won’t be the same”, and illustrated it with 10 of front pages including its first edition in 1855.
Northcliife announced proposals to close the East Kent Gazette and the Medway News – which publishes its final edition tomorrow – on 25 November, resulting in the loss of up to 40 jobs.
They are two of the seven titles it tried selling to the KM Group last month in a move scuppered after the deal was referred to the Competition Commission.
Now, readers have launched a campaign to save the Gazette spearheaded by local man Dave Wood, after bosses at Northcliffe said it was willing to discuss possible community ownership of the paper, but only if a group comes up with a business plan and evidence of funding.
A one-month consultation with affected staff kicked off on 2 December.
Editor Christine Rayner said the campaign had come entirely from readers, telling Press Gazette: ‘It’s not something we are able to get involved with as staff.”
She said staff were nonetheless ‘very supportive’of the idea, adding: ‘We’re very heartened by the upsurge of support that we’ve had from readers, it’s been fantastic. It’s helped us in the last few days certainly.”
Commenting on the campaign, she continued: ‘It’s something that’s come entirely from people in the town who’ve wanted to show their support.
‘We knew how strongly people felt about the Gazette because that’s been my experience. I’ve been involved with the Gazette titles for 32 years, and I know how strongly people feel about it as their local paper.’
The East Kent Gazette had an average weekly circulation of 13,975 in the first six months of this year, of which 7,804 were paid-for. The Medway News had a total circulation of 53,235 in the first six months of this year (of which 3,890 were paid for).