Local journalism is in crisis. Last week, the Offaly Express became the latest newspaper to announce it was closing down.
Except, its not journalism which is in crisis. It’s newspaper publishers. And the real issue isn’t just the Big Bad Internet, but lousy management.
As Senator John Whelan pointed out recently, “you have small local newspapers who have this huge debt burden on them which means they can’t perform sufficiently. At a time when newspapers are in need of strong local management and a regional strategy, they are being deprived of any resources and they are being shrunk further.”
Johnston Press, owners of the Offaly Express, are a case study in how not to run a media company. Having paid “exorbitant and excessive prices for titles”, they are now running them into the ground, cutting journalism to feed unsustainable debts.
As Whelan has argued, the titles are profitable. But the debt is destroying quality businesses. So what next? Either we see a slow dripfeed of closures, or someone bites the bullet, puts the titles into administration (or bankruptcy).
Let the lenders take their losses, and allow the titles to get back to what they should be doing, reporting the news.