David Melding AM – the Shadow Minister for Media – has expressed his concern over reports that a number of local newspapers are having to furlough staff during the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.
Mr Melding said he was “concerned” at the risk the pandemic posed to local journalism after learning that one paper – owned by Tindle Newspapers – In his constituency, has temporarily closed.
Newsquest and Reach PLC (formerly Trinity Mirror), both of which own a number of titles in Wales, have furloughed staff.
“It is inevitable that the effects of this pandemic will affect all sectors of industry, and freesheets that are reliant on advertising or paid-for papers that rely on a combination of income steams will not be immune.
“However, what is concerning me about the closure, albeit temporary, of a local newspaper is that not all people are digitally connected and therefore able to access other news sources. Perhaps especially so in this time of unparalleled uncertainty, the comforting regularity of a weekly newspaper can mean so much.”
Mr Melding added that another problem of furloughing editorial staff is that it can lead to the centralising of resources, staff, and ultimately the focus of news from local to regional.
“Newspapers have had to do this for many years now, pooling editorial resources to cover potentially a wide geographical area, even though the staff may live miles from the paper they are editing or writing for. It is then very difficult to maintain the local touch that makes a newspaper truly community-based.
“I look forward to readers and proprietors alike supporting these vital publications during and after this pandemic is over.”