The venerable satirical magazine Private Eye has for many years had a “Curse of Gnome” feature, reserved for those occasions when ill-fortune affects any who might have crossed the title, perhaps by stooping to engage Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Runne over some imagined offence.
It seems that there is a similar gnomic curse in operation in Croydon.
This week sees the final edition of the Midweek Sadvertiser. Cat owners across the borough will be at a loss to know what to line their pets’ litter trays with in future, because that was all that the freebie, often no more than a feeble re-heating of the previous Friday’s newspaper, was good for.
But there’s more. After more than 140 years, the Croydon Sadvertiser will soon no longer be published from the borough, its editorial staff being shunted into cheaper office space at the heart of local news in… errr… Redhill.
The rival Croydon Guardian, of course, moved its editorial offices to Sutton some time ago.
That all means that Inside Croydon will soon be the only local media outlet that is still actually based in the borough.
Staff at the Sadvertiser are not looking forward to the move to the boondocks of sleepy Surrey. “I’m gutted,” one of the paper’s less articulate reporters Tweeted.
Other senior staff members, though, have told Inside Croydon that they hold genuine fear for their jobs, as they have seen other local papers owned by the same Daily Mail subsidiary crash and burn in recent weeks.
In Kent, the Mail‘s local newspaper group Northcliffe Media (who also own the Sadvertiser) tried to unload seven long-established local newspapers in a fire sale to the Kent Messenger Group (where the editorial director is Ian Carter, a former Croydon Sadvertiser editor). When that deal collapsed, Northcliffe closed the East Kent Gazette and Medway News immediately, with 35 redundancies, and just before Christmas, too.
“Now as the Gazette and its sister paper the Medway News stand on the brink of extinction, I gaze into the abyss and wonder what will come next – both for me and for the world of local newspaper journalism,” the East Kent Gazette‘s Christine Rayner wrote in her final editorial.
Northcliffe Media’s annual figures make for gloomy reading, with the Financial Times reporting last month that the valuation of the company has slumped in the past five years from £1.5 billion to just £150 million. A sale of the group is “unlikely” any time soon, the Pink ‘Un reported.
The company’s own figures, published in the past couple of weeks, show a £10 million drop in profits nationally, despite more than 600 job cuts in 2011, and with more to come.
A statement accompanying the results said: “Northcliffe continued its restructuring and process innovation and delivered year-on-year cost savings of £15 million…
“Northcliffe’s titles continued to be affected by weak advertising markets”, the company reports say, with ad revenues down by 10 per cent.
Against that background, in Croydon the decision to depend on advertising revenues for the now part-paid-for, part-freebie Sadvertiser would seem to be a massive error.
Anecdotally, Inside Croydon‘s reader and its contributors report that they never receive the freely distributed Sadvertiser. The suspicion is that as its sales continue to plummet – down to less than 12,000 per week – the publishers are distributing free copies in the leafy south of the borough, while the north and central part of Croydon are being almost abandoned. The South London Press, based in its offices in Streatham, must be eyeing even more sales in Norbury, Selhurst and Thornton Heath, built around its Tuesday-Friday publications.
The Sadvertiser‘s owners meanwhile are cutting even more costs by axing its Sutton edition as well as closing offices in Dorking. There is talk that some elements of the editing operation will be “centralised” in Essex (will the subs in Chelmsford be able to tell the difference between their Addiscombes and their Addingtons?), as reporters in the Redhill offices are asked to cover ever-larger patches in Surrey and Kent.
We asked Sadvertiser Glenn Ebrey for a comment , but he directed us to some faceless management figure, who did not return our calls.
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough – free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
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