Northern Ireland

Weekly paper group Observer Newspapers NI ends publication

The front page of the final edition of the Armagh Observer
Image caption A note on the newspapers' front pages informed readers of the end to publication

A Northern Ireland newspaper group that owns 11 titles is to close, with its final editions published this week.

Observer Newspapers NI Ltd, based in Dungannon, County Tyrone, announced its decision to cease publication on the front pages of this week's papers.

The company blamed "challenging circumstances" in the weekly newspaper industry, saying it had "struggled to achieve long-term sustainability".

It is understood that staff were informed of the closure on Monday.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The Armagh Observer is one of 11 titles owned by Observer Newspapers NI Ltd

The group's publications are:

  • Armagh Observer
  • Armagh Down Observer
  • Ballymena Chronicle
  • Democrat
  • Dundalk Advertiser
  • Dungannon Observer
  • Fermanagh News
  • Lurgan and Portadown Examiner
  • Mid-Ulster Observer
  • Newry Advertiser
  • Ulster Farmer

'Closure certainly emotional'

In a statement, the firm said: "The newspaper industry has been subject to a steady decline in advertising and readership over recent years.

"We wish to sincerely thank our readers and advertisers for their support down through the years."

One veteran journalist was in his 51st year working for the firm.

Image caption Joe McManus "shared in people's joys and sorrows" during his half-century at the Armagh Observer

Joe McManus, who ran the Armagh Observer virtually by himself from an office in the city, said its demise is "certainly emotional".

"The boss told me it was closing and it's taken a few days before that's sunk in - it's the end of a very long era," the 72-year-old said.

'There to serve'

"It was my life and I never looked on it as a job.

"I saw myself more as a servant of the public than a journalist, and I've shared in people's joys and sorrows."

Mr McManus said his early days at the newspaper in the 1960s were spent reporting on everything from chimney fires to writing obituaries, and the publication "led the way" with its photographic coverage of social events.

"Then the Troubles came and the headlines were all about bombs and bullets - that wasn't a pleasant thing to do," he added.

"The Armagh Observer was looked upon as a nationalist paper, and few Protestants would've bought it but they had great respect for it.

"During the Troubles we always took a cross-community direction - we hung our hat on that, we were there to serve."

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