GMG to close its last two remaining local papers

Guardian Media Group is to close the Woking News and Mail and Woking Review, its last remaining local newspapers, after it failed to find a suitable buyer.

The media business, which also owns The Guardian and The Observer, said it had taken the ‘regrettable’decision to close the papers as no viable offers had been made to keep the loss-making titles going.

Around nine journalists are understood to be affected by the closure of the Woking Review, which was first published in 1933 is believed to be the oldest free newspaper in the country, and the paid-for News & Mail.

The last edition of both titles will be published on 17 March.

The News & Mail had a paid-for circulation of 5,760 in the last six months of 2010, which was down 16 per cent year on year.

GMG retained ownership of the two papers after Trinity Mirror declined to take on the free weeklies when it took bought GMG Regional Media, including the Manchester Evening News, last February for £7.4m cash and the release of GMG from a print contract valued at £37.4m.

It is understood that Trinity MIrror declined to take on the two Woking titles because it thought such a move would have seen it get bogged down in a competition inquiry. Trinity already publishes the Woking Informer which has a free circulation of 40,000.

Press Gazette understands that GMG offered to provide cash to cover ongoing liabilities of up to £300,000. However, this was not sufficient to raise a serious alternative buyer. The titles are understood to have been losing £500,000 a year.

In a statement, GMG said: ‘Despite our best efforts over the last year to find an alternative buyer, which generated a number of expressions of interest, no viable offers have emerged.

‘In light of this, and the Woking papers’ substantial ongoing losses, we have reluctantly made the decision to close the titles…

‘We deeply regret that such a step is necessary, and have only contemplated closure having exhausted all other options.

‘Staff have been aware of the situation for some time. The company is in formal consultation with all affected employees and their representatives.

‘We would like to thank the staff and management of the Woking titles who have shown great professionalism and patience throughout this difficult process.”

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