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Office closure of oldest newspaper in Wales will be ‘loss for journalism’ as reporters set to work from home and in the field

Reach has announced it will close the newsroom of the oldest newspaper in Wales after a review of “customer footfall” at the office.

Staff at the weekly Carmarthen Journal, which was founded in 1810, have been told they can work from home or on patch after the closure of the town centre office in King Street.

Reach, formerly Trinity Mirror, said its commitment to covering Carmarthen will not be affected by the change and that members of the public will be able to meet journalists in the town centre each week.

The company said the decision had been made after a review of customer footfall at the office, and the closure of its Llanelli base, where sister paper the Llanelli Star was produced, at the end of 2017.

The websites for both newspapers had already closed and been amalgamated into Wales Online.

Emma Meese, director of the Independent Community News Network based at Cardiff University, began her journalism career at the Carmarthen Journal 22 years ago.

She told Press Gazette she was “just really desperately sad” to hear of the office closure.

“I know the paper will still be going but there is absolutely no way they will end up with the same amount of local news coverage without reporters on the patch,” she added. “It’s just impossible.”

She added that it was a “real loss for the people of Carmarthen and just a loss for journalism”.

A Reach spokesperson said: “The new working arrangements in the Llanelli area, where our local reporters are equipped with kit – laptops and iPhones – which allows them to access all our editorial systems from the field, has proved successful.

“Our commitment to Carmarthen will not be affected by this change, and we plan to retain our presence through a dedicated weekly town centre presence, where customers and readers can access our teams for help and advice.

“A similar set-up in Llanelli town centre has already demonstrated the effectiveness of such an approach, which allows our reporters to cover the patch from within the community, using the tools of the modern multimedia publishing world, ensuring they are close to the people and the stories that matter.”

Meese said Reach has expressed an interest in more collaboration with hyperlocal publishers, with conversations ongoing.

“It’s something we are definitely up for discussing,” she added. “However it does make it more difficult on my part to convince our members to participate in such collaborations when all they can see is evidence of job losses and office closures.”

The office closure was also described as “another sad day for local newspapers” on Twitter by Robert Lloyd, a media consultant who previously worked at the paper.

Reach declined to comment on the number of staff affected – reported by the BBC as six – and said the office will remain open while a consultation period with staff is ongoing.

A spokesperson also denied reports that staff may be moved to the company’s Swansea office, 30 miles away.

According to the latest ABC figures, the Carmarthen Journal has a circulation of 8,372 – down 14 per cent year-on-year.

In March, Reach told staff it planned to close the office of the Hertfordshire Mercury and Herts and Essex Observer, moving staff to the Essex Live newsroom in Chelmsford some 30 miles away.

The move was made “to continue the impressive audience growth of Essex Live and to future-proof our important print products”, the company told staff.

Picture: Google Street View

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