The West Sussex County Times is asking readers whether the paper should switch from broadsheet to tabloid format two months after a fire devastated its offices in Horsham.
Editor-in-chief Gary Shipton said the last time fire hit its offices in 1927 the paper made the ‘momentous change’of breaking with tradition and publishing a front-page story without any ads.
‘For that reason, a fire which raged in exactly the same spot in our buildings last month has historic precedent on its side for us to consider another significant change to the newspaper’s format,’Shipton told readers this week.
‘In recent years there has been a significant number of readers who have told me they would prefer a smaller page size – in line with many national newspapers.
‘Market research conducted this autumn showed strong support for us to make this change. Backing from younger readers was unanimous.
‘But some traditionalists – myself amongst them – are less certain, which is why I want to give every single reader the opportunity to have their say before we reach a decision.”
Shipton said the Johnston Press paper and its sister titles the West Sussex Gazette and Chichester Observer are now rare examples of local broadsheets
The paper is also considering a hybrid option whereby the property section remains broadsheet but the main paper is tabloid.
Shipton said that unlike some consultations undertaken by local authorities ‘this one is entirely genuine”.
He said: ‘We want to give you the very best newspaper each week, and if changing to compact enhances the reading experience of the vast majority then we will not shy away from taking such action.
“Equally, if readers tell us in large numbers that they prefer the status quo, then the County Times will remain broadsheet.’
On Monday, 1,000 copies of this week’s edition (which comes out on Thursdays) will be distributed in tabloid format to help with the consultation.
Yesterday another Johnston Press title, the Falkirk Herald, became the latest paper to move to tabloid format.
An electrical fault was believed to have caused the fire at the County Times’ Horsham office in September.