Northern Ireland newspaper group closes with loss of 11 titles, owners say 'challenging circumstances' to blame

A newspaper group in Northern Ireland publishing 11 titles has announced its closure after struggling with the decline in advertising and readership seen across the news media industry.

Observer Newspapers NI made the announcement on the front page of The Armagh Observer today, under the headline: “Final issue”. It is understood staff were told of the closure on Monday.

The statement said: “The management of Observer Newspapers NI regret to announce that this is the final edition of this weekly newspaper.

“The newspaper industry has been subject to a steady decline in advertising and readership over recent years.

“In these challenging circumstances Observer Newspapers has struggled to achieve long-term sustainability. We regret that this has led to a decision to cease publication.

“We wish to sincerely thank our readers and advertisers for their support down through the years.”

The group, based in Dungannon, County Tyrone, published the following titles:

  • Armagh Observer
  • Armagh Down Observer
  • Ballymena Chronicle
  • Democrat
  • Dundalk Advertiser
  • Dungannon Observer
  • Fermanagh News
  • Lurgan and Portadown Examiner
  • Mid-Ulster Observer
  • Newry Advertiser
  • Ulster Farmer

Armagh Observer editor Jo McManus, 72, who has worked for the publisher for more than half a decade and was running the paper almost single-handedly, told the BBC: “The boss told me it was closing and it’s taken a few days before that’s sunk in – it’s the end of a very long era.

“It was my life and I never looked on it as a job. I saw myself more as a servant of the public than a journalist, and I’ve shared in people’s joys and sorrows.”

When the Troubles began, McManus said he stopped writing about chimney fires and started writing about “bombs and bullets”, adding: “That wasn’t a pleasant thing to do.”

He said: “The Armagh Observer was looked upon as a nationalist paper, and few Protestants would’ve bought it but they had great respect for it.

“During the Troubles we always took a cross-community direction – we hung our hat on that, we were there to serve.”

Picture: Conor Greenan/Twitter

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