Loss of rival newspaper is cause for real regret

The last edition of the Whitstable Times came out last week, leaving the town with only one newspaper.

It’s a sad day. The Times has been reporting from this town since 1864.

I wrote for the paper from 1999 to 2008. There were two columnists at the time, myself and Steve Regan. We were a bit like a double act, always winding each other up: Steve from a right-wing perspective, and myself from the left. John Nurden was the editor.

Steve and I stopped writing for the paper after the financial crash of 2008, when the owners decided they could no longer afford to pay the columnists. I got a job with the Gazette and have been writing here ever since.

People will remember the Times’ office in Cromwell Road. It was opposite the old Royal Mail delivery office, so I could finish work in the one and step over the road to the other in less than a minute.

What the loss of the Times highlights is two fundamental things. Firstly it shows the failure of the capitalist system to defend people and their jobs.

Money was sucked from the real economy in order to shore up the banks. Many businesses went under and the austerity narrative began to drive the political agenda. The paper was forced to sell off its assets, becoming ever more distant from the town.

The offices moved to Canterbury first, and then to Margate, during which time it was also downgraded to a free paper.

The second thing it shows is the impact of the internet on people’s reading habits. Many people simply do not read newspapers any more, preferring to get their news from social networking platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

But these sites do not generate their own content: they are dependent on news gathered from other sites, and on their users to share it around.

It’s important that Whitstable still has a proper newspaper like the Gazette to represent it, but I can’t help thinking that the news landscape has become a little more one-dimensional with the loss of its historic rival.

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From The Whitstable Gazette 05/10/17

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Some CJ Stone stories from the Whitstable Times

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