Johnston Press closes five weeklies

Johnston Press is closing five free newspapers across Yorkshire and Scotland, citing difficult economic conditions for the move.

In a further development, chief executive Ashley Highfield has also hinted at office closures as the company published a Working Environment Charter which he said was “aimed at ensuring you are all in appropriate accommodation with the technology you need to do the job by the end of 2013”.

Highfield said in an email to staff: “Latest technology allows us to provide journalists, photographers, and sales staff with the software and hardware to allow flexible working in the heart of the community without being tied to offices. Likewise, technology allows our ‘back office’ staff to increase their productivity, the service they give our readers and customers and their own job satisfaction.

“A key benefit of investing in new technology is that we can review our office accommodation strategy and requirements and sell some of our redundant offices. This will release substantial funds that will be used to improve remaining offices and ensure relocating staff move into ‘fit-for-purpose’ offices or have the technology required to enhance remote working where this becomes more appropriate. It will also help us continue to pay down our debt more quickly.”

Yorkshire Post Newspapers’ managing director Helen Oldham confirmed that following a portfolio review the Leeds Weekly News and Pudsey Times will publish their last editions on 5 July.

‘This change comes as a direct result of tough economic conditions and a natural migration of Leeds based advertisers towards paid for newspapers,’she said.

‘The closure of these titles will enable the Leeds based teams to focus on the strong Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post brands.”

The Fife Leader, Falkirk & Grangemouth Advertiser and West Lothian Herald & Post are also being closed this month.

No advertising or editorial roles are at risk as a result in either Scotland or Yorkshire.

According to the latest ABC figures for the last six months of 2011, the Pudsey Times had an average weekly circulation of 18,316 and the Leeds Weekly News 97,135.

The West Lothian Herald had a circulation of 33,279 in the first six months of 2011 (figures for second half of the year are unavailable) while the Fife Leader stood at 43,515 and the Falkirk & Grangemouth Advertiser 34,352.

The latest move by Johnston ties in with a strategy for the company outlined to investors in April, when Highfield predicted that by 2020 all of its titles will lead with ‘digital first’and that ‘few daily print products’will remain. He told shareholders there will be far fewer free papers within the JP portfolio.

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