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INM chief backs the future of local newspapers

The chief executive of Independent News and Media (INM), Joe Webb, has disagreed strongly with claims by a British journalist that Irish regional newspapers are "in crisis".

Yesterday, Mr Webb told journalism students attending a University of Limerick conference, entitled 'Regional Newspapers in Crisis?' that, despite the recession, "all of INM's newspaper titles are profitable". There is a future for regional print media, he said.

Professor of journalism at City University London and Guardian newspaper blogger Roy Greenslade earlier claimed the death knell was sounding for local newspapers.

"I think there is a genuine crisis. I think it's covered up to a larger extent by the obvious desire of newspaper owners not to be too gloomy, and I don't blame them; otherwise no one is going to invest," Prof Greenslade said.

Local newspaper readers are "deserting" print and going online, which would result in the "failure" of numerous regional titles, he said.

However, Mr Webb gave a positive assessment of the industry.

"Very clearly there is a positive future for publishing in Ireland, both at national and regional titles," he said.

"INM clearly believes in printed products, certainly for the foreseeable future.

"They can be very profitable and they can secure jobs for our employees into the future.

"I can only speak on behalf of INM's titles. . . our titles are all profitable.

Mr Webb added: "The 'online revolution' is very important and the greatest challenge for us all is how do we come up with a model that will be profitable and pay people's wages?"

Alan English, editor of the 'Limerick Leader', which has been printed since 1889, disagreed with talk of a crisis.

"We have a big online presence. We actually have more page impressions and more unique visitors than any local newspaper on this island and we're very proud of that fact."

Irish Independent