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Citizen to Close?

Author: 
John Freeman
Hot on the heels of the closure of the Lancaster offices of the Lancaster Citizen last month (see "When is a Local paper no longer Local?") comes the news that the free paper itself may also soon close.

The national Guardian reports that owners Newsquest are planning to close 11 newspapers in the north-west of England as part of drastic cutbacks to its regional newspaper publishing operation - including the Lancaster Citizen.

The Guardian says the publisher, which is owned by US newspaper giant Gannett, sent an internal memo to staff today (Tuesday 9th December) saying it had entered a number of different consultations to restructure its business in the north-west as a result of continued difficult trading conditions. The memo, seen by MediaGuardian.co.uk, identifies plans to centralise newspaper planning operations at Blackburn for all its north-west titles and create three regional editorial production hubs that will be responsible for all subediting.

The restructure under consideration would see 10 free weekly newspapers cease publication, including the Lancaster, Blackpool and Preston Citizen newspapers, the Westmorland Messenger, the Congleton Guardian, the Macclesfield Community News, the Hale Community News, the Knutsford Community News, the Lancashire Auto Exchange and the Manchester & Merseyside Auto Exchange.

Chris Hughes, the Newsquest regional managing director, told staff on those titles there would be a 30-day consultation with the company over the future of their jobs.

Last month, we reported now the Lancaster Citizen would employ just one local reporter while the newspaper's editor, Phil Fleming, took over as the group editor of the Citizen group, also covering papers in Chorley, Blackpool and Preston, but is now based in Blackburn. All advertising on the paper is now handled from Blackpool.

Five years ago, we understand the Lancaster Citizen was read in 60 per cent of Lancaster and Morecambe homes every week, more than any other newspaper. How did they get it so wrong?

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