Two free newspapers in Leeds are axed

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Leeds today lost two of its free newspapers as publishers Yorkshire Post Newspapers announced the closure of the Leeds Weekly News and Pudsey Times publications.

In an internal email to staff, Yorkshire Post Newspapers managing director Helen Oldham (a former advertising manager on the LWN) said:

 “Following a review of free newspaper publishing in Leeds, Yorkshire Post Newspapers have reached a decision to close the Leeds Weekly News and Pudsey Times from July 5th. 

“This change comes as a direct result of tough economic conditions and a natural migration of Leeds-based advertisers towards paid for newspapers.    

“The closure of these titles will enable the Leeds based teams to focus on the strong Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post brands. No advertising or editorial roles are at risk as a result.”

According to recent figures, the LWN had a circulation of just over 100,000, while Pudsey Times was just over 18,000.

Today’s memo follows last week’s announcement by Oldham that 19 jobs were to go as the editorial staff at the Yorkshire Evening Post and Yorkshire Post were merged into one team. In recent months  the editors’ posts on the two titles have both merged and advertising staff on Wellington Street have been told their work is to move to Sheffield.

It caps a turbulent period of change for YEP owners Johnston Press, who recently turned daily papers in Halifax and Scarborough into weekly publications, essentially becoming ‘platform neutral’ operations, focusing more on the internet. A number of journalists were made redundant from both titles.

From a personal standpoint, I appreciate that readership is, to an extent, migrating online and that print circulations are in decline.

I also suspect the closure of these two titles will be granted by a resounding chorus of ‘well, so what? Weekly News is crap – it’s had nowt in it for years’.

And you’d have a point. Thing is though, it didn’t use to be crap, well not that crap anyway. It’s my old paper – I started off there as a trainee in 1994. As well as me it had Tony Green as editor, the late Dennis Casson covered North Leeds, Brenda Bullivant South Leeds, Sheila Holmes East Leeds and Jim Seton reported on West Leeds (and subbed pages as well). The late Paul Rollinson did motors and also subbed, while Gillian Smallwood was part-time and sorted out the advertisement features. Eight of us!

We ran campaigns, took up people’s causes and gripes – but more importantly we were relevant to our communities (just as the Pudsey Times once was). We covered a lot of community news the YEP wasn’t interested in (and still isn’t).  My argument is that the news we did is still relevant today. It’s just not covered anywhere any more, which is sad, and bad for democracy.

By the time I’d left in 1999 they were already cutting back. Just Sheila and I were left, the rest either moved on or had been made redundant. More recently it had one reporter and articles lifted from the YEP. 

And now there are none.

As for the Pudsey Times, again it used to be a good little paper but it’s been allowed to decline editorially over the years. Pudsey’s a large town (I was born and bred there - it deserves its own paper as much as Morley and Wetherby and Otley deserve theirs). Interestingly last night a group of local residents met last night and are thinking of starting their own hyperlocal blog up - nature abhors a vacuum and if YPN aren’t interested in local news… I won’t get into the tiresome ‘but they’re not journalists’ argument which usually comes from journalists - good luck to them is what I say.

Times change. They certainly are for journalism and companies like Johnston Press. But while it’s important they move with them, is it any wonder publishers struggle so much when they’ve consistently thrown the baby out with the bathwater in recent years?

RIP LWN.