An independent publisher of three weekly newspapers has closed suddenly following the death of its owner and managing director.
Taylor Newspapers published five weekly of the Oxfordshire Guardian, the Oxford Paper and the Basingstoke Observer, but all titles closed with immediate effect yesterday after the death of founder Howard Taylor.
Taylor died unexpectedly on Friday last week aged 63.
The Basingstoke Observer and Oxfordshire Guardian websites were shut down yesterday. The Oxford Paper is still accessible online, but has not been updated with new content today.
The Basingstoke Observer website only shows readers the following message: “After nearly 17 years, the decision has been made reluctantly to close the Basingstoke Observer and our sister titles Oxfordshire Guardian and The Oxford Paper and the associated websites.
“It has been a pleasure to bring you the local news over this time and thank all our readers and advertisers for your support.”
The Oxfordshire Guardian carries the same message, but says it has been open for nearly seven years.
News reporter Owen Hughes, who joined the company in December last year, said on Twitter last night that it had been a pleasure working at the publisher as he confirmed the news of Taylor’s “sad untimely death”.
He added: “Local news has a bad rep for churnalism (i.e. churning out any old nonsense that comes into your inbox (and we got a lot of that) to fill pages) but though our team was small, I believe we always put out a paper that we were proud of. We worked our arses off to make content better.”
News and sports reporter George Welch also tweeted: “It is very sad to announce that Oxford Guardian has closed down following the unexpected death of our managing director.
“We have given it our all and it is devastating to have such a valued paper dismantled in these circumstances. Here’s to Howard and local journalism.”
According to Hold the Front Page, 16 roles have been made redundant as a result of the closure.
In a statement issued to HTFP, group editor Karen Neville said Taylor had “passed away unexpectedly” while at home.
She added: “During what have been challenging times for the newspaper industry, the independent group has continued to produce quality products for the people of Oxfordshire and Basingstoke and it is with reluctance this decision has been made.”
Press Gazette has been unable to reach Neville for further comment.
Taylor Newspapers was founded in 2012 when Taylor bought Trimedia Newspapers, publisher of the Basingstoke Observer and Oxfordshire Guardian after it went into administration.
He said it would rival Newsquest’s Oxford Times and Oxford Mail and was a direct response to their decision to launch free paper the Oxfordshire Star, which he said was a “challenge to us directly”.
Taylor had added: “We aren’t going to lie down and take it – we are going to fight it as much as we can.”
Many journalists and readers of the paper shared their sadness at the news on Twitter.
South East MEP Keith Taylor described the closure as a “real shame” and a “real blow to local media plurality in Oxfordshire”.
“Local and regional media is so important,” he added. “Very sad to see the Oxford Guardian go. It wasn’t published by one of the huge ever-powerful media conglomerates grabbing ever-more control of UK media.”
Peter Grant, deputy news editor of rival Newsquest paper the Oxford Mail, said: “A sad day when any newspaper closes, especially the circumstances in this case. A rival yes, but fellow journalists nonetheless.”
Local sports team Didcot Town FC also tweeted, saying: “Sad to hear of the closure of the Oxfordshire Guardian, a paper that’s given us regular coverage in recent years. Thank you for your support of us.”