Newsquest Media will not oust SMG editors

Newsquest Media will not close the loss-making Sunday Herald and it will not change the paper’s editor nor the editors of the The Herald and the Evening Times, Glasgow, said chief executive Paul Davidson this week.

Both scenarios had been mooted during the high-profile auction for the SMG titles, which ended in triumph for Newsquest before Christmas.

Instead, when Newsquest, owned by US company Gannett, completes the £216m deal to buy the three papers at the end of this week, its top management team will “look forward to working with the current teams”, said Davidson, “and continuing the progress they have been making”.

“They are terrific titles with very strong franchises and that’s why they were attractive to us. They make money through winning customers and providing high quality editorial that is really valued by their communities. And thereby they attract advertising.

“The Sunday Herald is a terrific newspaper and we will be looking to develop it even further than it has already achieved.”

That will be good news for editors Andrew Jaspan, Mark Douglas Home and Charles McGhie.

A new managing director of the papers to replace departing Des Hudson will be announced shortly. Tim Blott, managing director of Newsquest’s Bradford, York and Darlington division, and Eileen Opie, who runs the company’s Wales and Gloucestershire division, are said to be in the frame.

Last week was an amazing one in terms of Newsquest Media’s expansion in the UK.

Competition minister Melanie Johnson approved its deal for the Scottish papers on Friday and just two days before, the company had signalled its intention to buy Independent News & Media’s regional titles in North and South London for £60m.

If that too gets approval, it will mean Newsquest having a presence all around London.

Newsquest currently has more than 300 titles. With the Heralds in its stable and the prospect of owning 45 more weeklies, it is well on the way to catching up the two biggest groups in the country, Trinity Mirror and Daily Mail and General Trust.

Davidson, who is also Newsquest chairman, would not be drawn on the future of the Independent titles. The company has yet to apply for consent from the Department of Trade and Industry to the acquisition.

Among the newspapers it would gain would be the Kentish Times series, a serious rival to Newsquest’s News Shopper in Kent. Journalists on the KT papers are worried that this might mean the closure of papers with a 150-year history, even though the Kentish Times is a paid-for and the News Shopper free. They expect the headquarters in Gravesend to close and a move to the News Shopper’s offices in Petts Wood.

Among other titles Newsquest would acquire from Independent Regionals would be the Islington Gazette and the Hornsey Journal.

By Jean Morgan

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