London-based Jewish Chronicle to close and lay off all staff

The Jewish Chronicle is to close after the world’s oldest continuously published Jewish newspaper said it would be unable to survive the tough conditions in the media industry brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, ahead of the first night of Passover. 

“With great sadness, the board of the Jewish Chronicle has taken the decision to seek a creditors’ voluntary liquidation,” the UK-based group said on Wednesday. “Despite the heroic efforts of the editorial and production team at the newspaper, it has become clear that the Jewish Chronicle will not be able to survive the impact of the current coronavirus epidemic in its current form.”

The Jewish News, a title that was set to merge with the Chronicle, will also close. 

The Chronicle said the Kessler Foundation, the newspaper’s owner, was “actively working to secure a future for the [newspaper] after the liquidation”. It did not provide further details. 

Staff were told on Wednesday morning of the plan to liquidate both companies in the next two to three weeks, with all 54 employees including journalists and support staff to be made redundant. One employee said they were “completely devastated”.

The Chronicle was founded in 1841 and the two publications have a combined average circulation of about 40,000 copies a week, according to industry figures.

In February the two titles had announced an intention to merge, in a move that would have brought together two of the most influential UK Jewish news outlets under one umbrella. As well as plans to combine sales staff, there was to be a strategic review looking at whether both newspapers would continue printing in the future.

Like many smaller print and online publications, both have struggled financially in recent years. The Chronicle reported a £1.57m loss for 2018, according to its most recent set of accounts filed at Companies House.

Last year Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard said 20 “community-minded individuals, families and charitable trusts” had made donations to the Kessler Foundation to keep them afloat.

Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland wrote on Twitter. “I’ve been a JC columnist since 1998. My father wrote for the paper for 67 years, starting in 1951. It’s no exaggeration to say it is the beating heart of the British Jewish community. It must not be allowed to die.”

Jo Stevens, shadow secretary for media, said it was “very sad news for the staff and Jewish community, particularly at the start of Passover”. 

“Collapsing print sales and advertising revenue are hitting regional, local and independent news outlets already under financial pressure, extremely hard,” she said. 

PA Media, formerly the UK Press Association, became the latest group to announce pay cuts for journalists and other staff on Wednesday as it attempts to weather the pandemic. 

Executives will take a 30 per cent pay cut over the next six months while employees earning between £20,000 and £100,000 will be asked to take cuts of 10 to 15 per cent over the next two years, according to an internal note seen by the Financial Times.

Clive Marshall, chief executive of the wire service provider, said in the message that it was being told by media clients that advertising revenue in the sector has collapsed between 50 per cent and 90 per cent. The group declined to comment. 


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