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Publication suspended for UK’s only employee-owned local newspaper

Posted on: April 17, 2020 by Mariella Brown

The UK’s first and only employee-owned newspaper, the West Highland Free Press, is to temporarily cease publication due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The paper which serves communities in the West Highland of Scotland, says today’s edition will be its last printed free edition until June 5.

The independent publication, which began circulation in 1972, says it will maintain a much-reduced online presence during this time due to the majority of staff being furloughed under the government retention scheme.

In the 2503rd edition of the paper, managing director Paul Wood praised the work of his staff in serving the West Highland community, marked he said by the paper’s independence and journalistic integrity.

The front page editorial delivered its message to readers:

“Until the measures taken to stop the spread of Covid-19 bear fruit, the Free Press will not be able to document the events of the next weeks, perhaps months, that will go by before something like the life we all knew is restored to us.

“In the interim, we will have no role, other than a limited online presence, in telling those stories and fighting the corner of the west Highlands and Islands. That causes us immense sadness. But it also makes us determined to pick up the reins again, with renewed vigour, when circumstances allow.

“Whatever the future holds, one aspect of life that must endure is the role played by strong community journalism.

“We believe that good reporting and writing, borne of empathy and curiosity, will always be in demand. When the Free Press returns, we will need your support more than ever to ensure our own modest contribution.

“We are not part of a large media group. We are a small team with limited financial means; the only employee-owned newspaper in the UK.

“We are you – queuing in the Co-op, watching shinty, driving along the same pot-holed roads.

“In every sense of the term, we are your local newspaper.

“Until we meet again in the near future, stay safe, and look after each other.”

Visit the WHFP here