Banbridge Chronicle and Newry Reporter are latest newspapers to suspend publication

Gary McDonald Business Editor

TWO of the north's oldest weekly newspapers are the latest to temporarily suspend production due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Newry Reporter (first published in 1867) and sister title The Banbridge Chronicle (established 1870) announced their intentions to readers yesterday, and it is understood most staff have been furloughed in the meantime.

The papers' owners, the Hodgett family, in a front page statement, said: "It is with regret we confirm that the print and digital editions will be suspended from this week.

"It is our intention to return as soon as this crisis abates. It has been a very difficult process and we hope readers understand the reasons for taking such a momentous decision."

It follows similar moves by other media groups, including the Co Down-based Spectator Newspapers, which put its titles into cold storage a fortnight ago.

The weekly Gaelic Life, published by the North-West News Group in Omagh, has also stopped for the time being.

A number of weeklies published by Morton Newspapers owners JPIMedia have also stopped their presses, but there is no indication yet what is happening with its titles in Northern Ireland, which include the Portadown Times, Mid-Ulster Mail and Ulster Star.

But Edinburgh-headquartered JPI, which also owns the News Letter, confirmed it was putting around 60 journalists and 350 staff on paid leave under the government furlough scheme.

And those remaining in work will take incremental pay cuts depending on how much they earn (10 per cent on earnings between £18,000 and £40,000, 15 per cent on earnings above £40,000 and 20 per cent for directors).

It continues to be business as usual at Dungannon-headquartered Alpha Media Group, with its stable of titles including the Tyrone Courier, Ballymena Guardian, Northern Constitution, Ulster Gazette and Strabane Weekly News.

Its chief executive Jean Long told the Irish News: "We are continuing to publish all our titles".

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