Journalists, editors and executives at major newspaper publishers like Trinity Mirror will be painfully aware of the fact that nobody is indispensable. This, at times, cruel truth was highlighted recently when the Trinity culled a number of editors’ posts from their Local World regional titles.
The fact is, in this hyper-connected, digital age, when you work for a large, powerful organisation, small (but expensive) cogs can easily be replaced by more efficient (cheaper) options.
This is not a luxury afforded to the new breed of hyper-local publishers, many of which have sprung up following widespread job losses in the industry.
In many cases these operations are run by, at the very most, a handful people on shoestring budgets.
While many of these tiny publishers wrestle with the same problems as their larger counterparts, including online competition and a decline in print advertising, they don’t have the security of a larger business to fall back on.
In hyper-local news, should one of the cogs work its way loose, the entire operation is at risk.
This was highlighted by the recent sudden death of Martin Regain, a former journalist-turned-entrepreneur who founded the Cheshire Today news portal and the fortnightly print titles, Macclesfield Today and Whiltshire Today.
According to a report on the Hold The Front Page website, Regain’s family have confirmed that following his passing the online and print newspaper titles have now closed.
Regain’s commitment to local news will be sorely missed, especially at a time when larger publishers are cutting editorial staff and closing local newsrooms or entire publications.
The fragility of the hyper-local news media should also be of a concern to anyone worried about local democracy and in particular holding local authorities and other government agencies to account.
As an industry who works hand-in-hand with the regional and local press, the PR industry needs to start asking themselves how they can help shore up hyper-local news services and help guarantee their future in less-than-certain times.