South West Wales

South Wales Evening Post editor Spencer Feeney retires

One of Wales' most experienced newspaper editors says there is still a role for local papers as he retires after 43 years in journalism.

Spencer Feeney has edited the Swansea-based South Wales Evening Post for the last decade, also taking responsibility for the Carmarthen Journal and the Llanelli Star during that time.

The press had been "transformed" since he started in the late 1960s, he said.

Mr Feeney said newspapers had to adapt to survive in a very different world.

It comes at a time when there are fears for the future of regional newspapers.

Speaking about the start of his career, Mr Feeney said: "There was no internet then, there was no 24-hour news channel, there was hardly any commercial radio.

"Newspapers were a dominant media at that time.

"They're still powerful. Local papers are still hugely important to their communities, but they're operating in an entirely different landscape now."

Recently-published circulation figures show the South Wales Evening Post is the most popular newspaper in Wales, selling an average of 36,623 copies a day in the first six months of this year.

However, the figure represents an 8.8% fall in circulation compared to the same period in 2011.

Referring to the industry-wide trend for falling circulation figures, Mr Feeney - who retires on Friday - said: "I think the internet plays a large part in it.

"The internet is only part of the overall picture.

"Society is changing, communities are changing, work patterns are changing."

"Obviously the internet is a huge driver, and it's affecting the way my industry operates.

"On top of that, in the last five years the biggest single influence has been the recession, and the effect that that has had on revenues coming in to newspapers."

Image caption Spencer Feeney says the biggest recent single influence on newspaper revenue has been the recession

In an appearance before the Leveson Inquiry into media standards earlier this year, Mr Feeney said that advertising revenue had "about halved" at regional newspapers over the past five years.

The situation has alarmed those monitoring the newspaper industry.

Dr Andy Williams, a lecturer at Cardiff University's School of journalism, said: "I'd say it was in crisis.

"It's not in a healthy state at all. The main reason is that advertisers don't want to advertise in papers any more.

"Advertising is now much more profitable in new media formats - on search engines and social networks. They don't need local news to advertise any more."

Dr Williams says only a not-for-profit solution can sustain local news, with new endeavours subsidised by levies on the communications industry.

"We need to make a decision as a society about how we replace the subsidy that commercial advertising gave to local news.

"The only way we can sustainably fund local news in future is through some form of public subsidy.

"I don't think that means taxing the general population.

"I'd much rather see a levy on more popular and profitable areas of the telecoms industry.

"So tax search, tax social media, and use those profits to fund a sustainable local news."

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