Johnston Press says 'non core' newspaper titles will be sold or run at a lower cost


Story updated at 4.50pm with clarification from Johnston Press.

Johnston Press has announced plans to sell off, close or cut costs at various local newspaper titles it has decided are now "non core".

The move comes as the company completes the purchase of national daily newspaper i, and becomes (it claims) the UK's fourth largest news publisher.

Earlier this year Johnston Press identified 59 of its titles as being "sub core". But today a spokesperson said it would be wrong to equate "non core" titles with "sub core" ones.

A spokeserson said: "The ‘core’ and ‘sub core’ labels mean exactly that. They are fundamental to the communities they serve and an essential part of the local democratic process of informing and bringing communities closer together.

"That ‘label’ does not automatically mean we're about to close or sell these titles. These are the titles where we are looking to establish new innovative models to enable us to improve the levels of return.
"Divestment will be of titles that do not fit the core strategy (very different to the sub-core list but which is based around audience and geography) – or which may complement another publisher's portfolio better that our own and we will update on those titles when it's appropriate."
The company said in its annual results statement: "We have identified a number of newsbrands that are now considered non-core and such will be either divested or run with less costs, reflecting the medium-term outlook for the identified assets that fall into this category.

"The company will run a formal process, with advisers, to market defined asset groups for sale during 2016. Interest by third parties, enquiring about assets, has been encouraging so far."

Earlier this month four Labour Nottinghamshire MPs wrote to Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield seeking assurances that a number of regional titles in their consitituencies have a future after the publisher deemed them “sub-core”.

John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw, Alan Meale, MP for Mansfied, Graham Allen MP for Nottingham North and Ashfield MP Gloria De Piero, signed the letter to Highfield.

According to De Piero, the letter was sent because they want an assurance “that these newspapers will continue to have an important role to play in the company going forward because we believe that they are key assets to our local communities”.

De Piero, who has also written to John Whittingdale, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport about the issue, added: “We urge him to ensure that staffing levels at the newspapers are maintained to a level that does not cause unacceptable stress to the employees who work there and which enabled the newspapers to continue their good work informing local people, championing local causes and scrutinising local democracy.”

"Sub core" Nottingham titles include: Eastwood Extra, Alfreton Chad, Eastwood Advertiser, Hucknall Dispatch and the Retford Trader and Guardian.

Johnston Press has cut costs more aggressively than other regional newspaper publishers in recent years as it sought to bring its debts under control.

When the financial crisis hit in 2008 Johnston Press owed £700m spent on buying other newspaper groups.

The current debt total stands at £179.4m, helped by a deal in 2014 where debt fell by £100m as creditors swapped debt for shares.

Johnston Press has halved the number of journalists it employs since 2009 reducing its editorial headcount by around 1000.

Johnston revealed today that it has cut its total headcount by around 500 over the last year to the current total of 2,840.

Johnston Press closed at least 18 local newspapers last year.
The sub-core titles are as follows:

ACP Weekly (Brechin, Forfar & Montrose)
Alfreton Chad  
Arbroath Herald  
Ballymena Times  
Ballymoney Times  
Banbridge Leader  
Belfast Vibe  
Belper News  
Beverley Guardian  
Bourne Local  
Brighouse Echo  
Buchan Observer  
Carrick Gazette  
Crawley Observer  
Deeside Piper  
Dirt Bike Rider  
Diss Express  
East Fife Mail  
Eastbourne Gazette  
Eastwood Advertiser
Ellon Times  
Epworth Bells  
Fleetwood Weekly News
Fraserburgh Herald  
Galloway Gazette  
Glasgow Sth & Eastwood Extra
Glenrothes Gazette  
Haverhill Echo  
Hawick News  
Hayling Islander  
Hemel Hempstead Express
Hemsworth & S Elmsall Exp
Hucknall Dispatch  
Image Northampton
Linlithgow Gazette  
Londonderry Sentinel
Malton & Pickering Mercury
Mearns Leader  
Midlothian Advertiser
Morley Observer & Advertiser
Morpeth Herald  
North Yorkshire News
Pocklington Post  
Portsmouth View  
Retford Trader & Guardian
Rutland Time  
Scotland on Sunday  
Selkirk Weekend Advertiser
South Etc    
South Yorkshire Times
The Buteman  
Todmorden News (inc Hebden Bridge News)
Tyrone Times  
Weekend Herald.  
West Sussex Gazette
Wharfe Valley Times
Wigan Evening Post (Daily)
Worthing Advertiser


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