Cannock Chase mourns the loss of local news

Politicians, community leaders and readers are among those to have paid tribute to the Chase Post - a local weekly newspaper which was closed last week by Trinity Mirror.

While local newspapers closures are not uncommon in the present era - it is a very rare for an area as large as Cannock Chase, with a population of just over 60,000, to lose its primary source of local news.

The area will be left with some coverage from regional daily the Wolverhampton Express and Star, which is based 10 miles away and no longer has a dedicated Cannock Chase edition.

In its final edition, the Chase Post published six pages of tributes from local people who wanted to pay their respects to the 52,000 a week circulation free weekly.

South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson said: "Newspapers such as the Chase Post are as much the heart of the local community as a post office or local school.

"Unfortunately the end of the newspaper will take a lot away from every village and community that it has served for so many years.

"The Chase Post has not only been a servant to communities in Cannock and South Staffordshire, but I think it has been it's lifeblood and its passing will be mourned by many."

Penkridge Parish Council chairman Pet Hughes said: "The paper is a lifeline for many villagers. The paper always got to the issues of the community and served the people well.

'It also helped with charities in the villages."

The Chase Post was one of three weeklies closed by Trinity Mirror in the Midlands last week as it revealed plans to axe 50 editorial staff in the region. It is also plans to further centralise editorial production for its Birmingham and Coventry weekly and daily titles.

According to the NUJ, Trinity Mirror Midlands made an operating profit of £3.2m in 2010.

Trinity Mirror has said it tried and failed to sell the Chase Post, Stafford Post and the Sutton News.

But Press Gazette understands that the Chase Post was near profitablity when central Trinity Mirror overheads are taken out.

Many have paid truibute to Chase Post editor of 25 years Mike Lockley.

Chief inspector of Staffordshire Police Carl Ratcliffe said: "Six months ago I arrived in Cannock Chase and was immediately introduced to Mike Lockley and the Chase Post.

"I can honestly say I am the envy of all other commanders in the area because of the pro-active and professional relations we have built up in such a short time.

"The Chase Post is a community newspaper with an understanding of community issues, it is so respected by everyone you talk to in the area.

"Last week, we congratulated Mike on his 25th anniversary as editor at the Chase Post, this week we have learnt the Post is to be axed.

"Mike is a Cannock legend and you only get a nickname like that through earning people's respect.

"The Chase Post is something we should all be proud of. Cannock Police will miss you and there will be a gap within the district as a whole."

Cannock Chase MP Aidan Burley said: "We live in a time when the reputation of some journalists and newspapers is, perhaps, only marginally higher than MPs.

"However, even in the deepest fog, beacons stand out. In my opinion the Chase Post under the inspired editorship of Mike Lockley was one such beacon. Its loss will be deeply felt by everyone here in Cannock Chase."

Last week National Union of Journalists northern and Midlands organiser Chris Morley delivered a wreath tothe offices of the Case Post.

He said: "Although we have laid this wreath, the NUJ does not believe these papers have to die. Trinity Mirror claims to have searched for a buyer, but has not been open about its efforts. It has an obligation by law to try to eliminate or reduce the number of redundancies the closure of these titles will bring about and one obvious way of doing that would be to actively seek a buyer.

'If it is serious about finding a new owner, Trinity Mirror should consider giving away the titles to any credible local investors with a clear interest in keeping them as the valuable community asset that they are. The group reaped the profits from these papers over the past ten years and should now be responsible to the community who provided those profits.

'The closure of these titles was announced in the same week that the new Localism Act was passed. As a union, we will be looking hard to see if this new Act's provision for forcing companies to allow time for community groups to organise a bid to take over threatened local 'assets of community value', could be adopted to save threatened local papers."

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