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Independent County Durham newspaper closes after 32 years as crowdfunder fails

An independent local newspaper has closed after almost 33 years, blaming “steadily falling circulation and shrinking advertising revenues”.

Three jobs have been lost with the closure of the fortnightly Weardale Gazette, which announced this week that its next edition, its 596th, will be its last.

The decision to close the paper, based in Stanhope, County Durham, came just weeks after its editor Anita Atkinson stepped down.

A Facebook post explaining the decision said staff were initially “optimistic” they could carry on without her but that “given a careful and professional analysis of the figures, combined with a well documented declining market, we were left with little choice but to make the difficult decision to stop printing”.

It said: “This situation has arisen because of steadily falling circulation and shrinking advertising revenues. As people have turned to online sources, hundreds of newspaper titles in the country have disappeared in the last few years.

“It seems that people now prefer to get their local information from websites, or social media, rather than traditional sources and new generations simply don’t read newspapers.

“Consequently, the Gazette has been losing money for a long time and if we continued to publish past December 2019 we would run out of funds to pay our creditors and be declared insolvent.”

The directors of the company behind the paper were all volunteers, while all money made by advertising and sales were put back into the business.

The paper launched a crowdfunding campaign at the end of October in an attempt to raise £8,000 and reach new readers with a digital version of the paper, but this only raised £75.

Accounts on Companies House to 31 March 2019 show the company had total net assets of £38,955.

Subscribers and advertisers will receive a refund of money already paid, the paper said. The crowdfunding money was also returned to donors.

In a Facebook post, Atkinson described the closure as “very sad news for the Dale because the Gazette was the glue that kept it all together”.

“Now you Dalefolk won’t have a voice, or less of a voice than you had anyway,” she wrote.

“No-one to fight for you, nothing to worry those in authority who are planning things we aren’t going to like: no-one to announce your good news and achievements and record the lives of your loved ones when they depart this life.

“No-one to simply record the everyday life of Weardale and its people… Weardale is now out on a limb and I am so sorry.”

Comments

1 thought on “Independent County Durham newspaper closes after 32 years as crowdfunder fails”

  1. Always a great shame when an independent local newspaper closes for whatever reason, particularly when the bigger centres are walking away from communities they once served in search of the elusive digital dollar and in some cases with funding from Google to do so.
    Wouldn’t it be great if a multi national brand got behind these small local publishers and helped them to launch or continue their localised news services as opposed to funding groups like Archant who can’t even monetise their own output after 20 plus years of trying.

    Good wishes to all at the Gazette.

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