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Several Northern Ireland newspapers forced to halt publication because of Covid-19

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The front page of this week’s Co Down Spectator which will temporarily close

The front page of this week’s Co Down Spectator which will temporarily close

The front page of this week’s Co Down Spectator which will temporarily close

Several local newspapers across Northern Ireland are introducing pay cuts or halting publication amid the outbreak of coronavirus.

Spectator Newspapers said that the County Down Spectator, Newtownards Chronicle and Mourne Observer would not publish from next week due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The move was announced on this week's front pages.

A spokesperson said the publisher "awaited further guidance from the government".

Meanwhile, staff at the Impartial Reporter in Co Fermanagh have been told they will be temporarily laid off or face a pay cut due to a downturn in revenues.

The Impartial is owned by UK media giant Newsquest, which emailed staff on Tuesday informing them of measures it was taking in reaction to the economic impact of coronavirus.

Newsquest owns 165 news brands around the UK and is itself owned by US media giant Gannett Inc.

The email to staff from chief executive Henry Faure Walker - which has been seen by the Belfast Telegraph - said the pandemic was "having a profound impact on day to day living and business activity across the UK and across the world".

"Despite the sterling efforts of our teams, we are seeing very significant declines in our revenue, particularly from advertising, as many of our customers cancel or put their plans on hold.

"Standing still is therefore not an option."

Newsquest, which has owned the Impartial since 2015, said that in order to "weather the storm" the business would be participating in the government's coronavirus job retention scheme.

The email explained: "This enables us to respond to the clear downturn in activity by placing a significant number of our employees on leave... they do not work in this period, but they will continue to receive 80% of their basic salary."

And while the government scheme is officially limited to £2,500 a month, Newsquest said it would ensure staff received 80% of their basic monthly salary even if over £2,500.

Staff whose roles are regarded as suitable to be placed on to furlough are to be told over the next two days. The newspaper is thought to have around 20 staff, including editorial and advertising.

However, other staff not on furlough will see a 15% cut in their wages above £18,000 - so that a staff member on £22,000 would be hit by a 15% reduction on the £4,000.

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