A former weekly editor has criticised big regional publishers for making “the most revenue for the least effort” as he launches a free monthly magazine for Northamptonshire.
Steve Scoles established The NeneQuirer (or NQ) magazine after Trinity Mirror closed the weekly Northamptonshire Herald & Post, where he was editor for three years, in November.
He said: “Big media has not served Northamptonshire well over the years. The major local newspaper publishers have reduced or removed their offer to the extent that a network of towns that used to receive a daily paper and at least one weekly free now only have one weekly paid-for in the market place.
“People tend to think this is some kind of inevitable dinosaur moment for print publications, but on the inside of these big companies the strategies are all about what is the easiest way to capture the most revenue for the least effort.”
He added: “The all-round service people get from a typical local newspaper has changed so dramatically in recent years: adverts booked via call centres, Buzzfeed-style generic clickbait on the websites, editors based in towns 25 miles away – the word local hardly seems appropriate.
“And then to have your paper taken away – not because the local economy cannot support it but because the internal economy of the publisher cannot support it – it’s the final insult.”
The NQ launched on Easter weekend and will include long-read articles and columns focused on people and organisations in the county, with local news, culture and sport covered.
Scoles, who edits and owns the title, said he isn’t trying “to make a fortune” and that it is more important news is produced for his community, by its members.
He said: “Businesses that book ads with us will have someone on the other end of the phone who knows that they are in Abington, Northampton, not Abingdon, Oxford.
“People who read our stories will be reading stories written by or about county people, not something about Milton Keynes ‘re-purposed’ by a content manager in another county.”
Scoles said he believes the big regional media business models do not work in Northamptonshire and his new magazine will bring the ‘slow news’ movement to the county.
In March, a National Union of Journalists (NUJ) commissioned report in March said Trinity Mirror, Johnston Press, Newsquest and Tindle Newspapers were responsible for more than “three quarters” of local newspapers.
The report said 418 journalists had lost their jobs – the bulk of them at the major regional publishers – and that between November 2015 and March 2017 22 local and regional titles had closed while only 13 opened.
Helen Goodman MP, chair of the NUJ all-party parliamentary group, told MPs the “hollowing out” of the local news industry had been partly down to “too much money being taken out of local newspapers”, in a parliamentary debate on the future of the local paper industry.
The NQ will be available on high streets and local independent businesses in Northamptonshire.