Whitstable News: Closure of the Whitstable Times

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.


From The Whitstable Gazette 05/10/17

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.

Send letters to: The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE

fax: 01227 762415

email: kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk


Some CJ Stone stories from the Whitstable Times

Whitstable Views: Letter to the Whitstable Times

Letter to the Whitstable Times by John Ledger 22/03/17

My Response to Apathy and Resignation

In reply to John Ledger’s letter (Whitstable Times 22/03/17) can I just say that I agree with him entirely?

If we do not change we are going to die as a country.

Which is why I was puzzled by some of his more ill-informed opinions.

Take the Post Office for instance. It is, indeed, dying on its feet. However this is not a natural process. It is entirely down to policy decisions having been made by successive governments.

The Post Office and the Royal Mail were once part of one seamless postal service. You bought your stamps from the Post Office and had your letters delivered by the Royal Mail.

Since then, of course, the Royal Mail has been privatised. But in order to do this, the government had first to deal with its liabilities.

Its pension scheme, which had been deliberately run down by the company in the early part of this century, and the Post Office, which has always made a loss, were taken on by the government, while the profitable part, the Royal Mail, was sold off on the cheap to its backers in the City.

This is known as “privatisation of profit, socialisation of cost” and is the means by which all privatisations are effected.

The same thing is happening to the NHS right now. Prior to the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (which laid the foundations for privatisation) all NHS regions were in surplus. Now all but one of them are in deficit. (See graphic, above).

Mr Ledger is right to say that the NHS will not survive under these conditions. Just like the Royal Mail it is being deliberately run-down in order to hand the cheap-to-administer parts over to the private sector, while the tax payer is left to deal with what remains.

What this will inevitably mean is a two-tier system: a sleek, slick, shiny new part for those who can afford it, and a run-down, over-worked, stressed-out rump for the rest.

The reason why the system was good in its day, as Mr Ledger says, is that the burden of cost was shared by the nation as a whole and not loaded on to the individual. This was the very essence of the post-war consensus which gave us more than 30 years of prosperity, security and increasing living standards.

So yes, Mr Ledger, you are right: we are a much different country now. It’s the post-Thatcher neo-liberal consensus that has ruled the game for the last 40 years, leading to stagnating living standards, greater insecurity and more inequality as a consequence.

None of this was inevitable. All of it is due to deliberate policy choices, and if we don’t change soon, as Mr Ledger says, “we are going to die as a country”.

Christopher Stone.

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