Posted: 03.09.20 at 16:17 by Philip Evans
The parlous state of the regional press in the UK, which has led to hundreds of local newspapers closing down in recent years, has been underlined by major changes about to be introduced by publisher Archant's East Devon titles – the Exmouth Herald, the Sidmouth Herald and the Midweek Herald.
Hold The Front Page (HTFP), the newspaper industry’s dedicated website, is reporting today that Archant is planning a “radical” restructure involving their East Devon publishing operation based at Exeter Airport.
According to HTFP, a number of redundancies are being made including their South West group editor Jim Robinson and Devon editor Andrew Coley who is much admired in the East Devon towns covered by the Midweek Herald.
In addition, the HTFP reports that sports editor Steve Birley, his assistant, a photographer, three district reporters and a chief reported are being made redundant.
In their place, three new community editor posts post will be created, one covering each of the three areas who will be responsible for the editorial coverage of their area without the help of full-time reporters.
The restructure of the papers came after the announcement that Archant is now under new ownership.
London-based investment firm RCapital has taken a 90 per cent share in the Norwich-based business with responsibility for the pension scheme being taken over by the government’s Pension Protection Fund.
According to an internal email, the three East Devon weeklies are now set to become ‘good news’ titles along the lines of the recently launched Torbay Weekly.
Although newspapers I have edited in recent years have been in competition with the Herald, I have every reason to be saddened by this news.
I was editor of the Sidmouth Herald for nine years in the 1970s and I launched the Midweek Herald in 1981 when the titles were owned by notorious former Fleet Street journalist Jimmy Hall, late of this parish.
It’s where I met my wife Jackie and I still have many happy memories from my days in Sidmouth.
Among the reporters who worked for me was Mark Holland, who went on to become one of the most influential executives in the Australian press, and Geoff Baker who went into music PR and looked after Beatle Paul McCartney’s public relations for 15 years before moving back to his home town, Lyme Regis, where he works as a freelance.
The Midweek Herald has served East Devon well over the years, especially the towns of Honiton, Axminster and Seaton. Like all local newspapers, the past couple of years have been particularly challenging with advertising revenues dropping.
The Herald has employed many good journalists, among them Chris Carson, the area’s longest serving reporter who is highly regarded in the industry.
The conversion of the three East Devon Herald’s into ‘good news’ publications - with no coverage of council meetings, courts and crime - comes as a surprise to other local journalists and the sacking of the sports editor would indicate there will be little or no sport.
But fear not, Nub News, part of a network of 46 news websites throughout the country, with many new launches in the offing, is well established in East Devon with sites in Exmouth, Sidmouth, Honiton and Axminster.
We will continue to report all the major issues in our area as well as our unrivalled coverage of business, community events and sport.
We also offer free listings for local shops and businesses and free events listings.
If you have a news item for Nub News you can post it yourself using our 'Nub It' button on the website homepages, or contact one of our reporting team in East Devon: