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  5. SNS members continue to serve communities after title closures

The closure of The Buteman and the now imminent end of the Hawick News, both published by JPI Media,  are both sad days for the communities they serve, but in both cases SNS members are continuing to serve those communities and no void has been left.

The announcements came as Inverness Courier publisher Scottish Provincial Press stepped in to buy Turriff Advertiser publisher W Peters & Son Ltd, both SNS members, and continue publication in the Aberdeenshire town.

Former Hawick News editor Jason Marshall has been publishing The Hawick Paper for three years  and with his life-long roots in the community the paper has firmly established itself as a strong voice at the same time as conditions were becoming tougher for the Hawick News.

Through membership of the SNS, The Hawick Paper gained entry to the JICREG audience measurement systems to give access to national display advertising schedules.

In Rothesay and Bute, existing SNS member Dumfriesshire Newspaper Group (DNG) last week announced its subsidiary Argyll Media Ltd would launch the Isle of Bute News on June 21 to take the place of The Buteman, which has served the island since 1854.

Argyll Media produces the Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard and was itself a small independent publisher until the business was bought by Annandale Observer publisher DNG in 2015.

The IoB News will be produced from the Dunoon office by Observer editor Gordon Neish, who told the HoldtheFrontPage trade website: “We are all sorry to see the Buteman will no longer be published, as the people of Bute deserve a newspaper to be their voice, and to keep them informed of what is going on, both on and around the island.

“I have thought for some time that as Bute and Cowal are physically so close to each other and have so much in common, such as a council area committee, health board – and even sports teams, that a newspaper covering both areas would be ideal.”

Managing director Peter Laidlaw told HtFP: “These are extremely challenging times for small titles but we believe that with our base in Dunoon we are well positioned to expand our coverage in Bute and Argyll.We believe that investing in quality local journalism is a vital element for the future of all our titles along with efficient and innovative use of the latest technology.

“Clearly the ongoing support of the local community and businesses will be a key factor as we strive to ensure a viable future for the Isle of Bute News.”

A JPIMedia spokesperson said: “The decision to close these titles has not been taken lightly, but it is crucial that we focus all our efforts on the long-term stability of the business and deliver newspapers and websites which can sustain our business for the long term.

“We would like to thank all our readers and advertisers for their support through the decades, and we hope they will understand why we have made this decision in these challenging times.”

SNS director John McLellan said: “The challenges facing small titles are considerable, but communities still need a strong, independent voice and both DNG and The Hawick News show it can be done.”

  • Former Annandale Observer editor Bryan Armstrong received an MBE in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours to mark his 40 years’ service to DNG. Said Bryan: “In accepting, cautiously, I see it as a chance to highlight the work local journalists are doing week-in, week out in communities up and down the country.”