The Rochdale Observer offices will have a second move in a year - from Rochdale to Manchester and now to Oldham.
Times are tough for inkies - as freesheets and other media streams have diverted already dwindling advertising revenues. Youngsters don't seem to read newspapers.
Is this the final nail in the coffin of local journalism?
We don't think so.
In fact, there is a strong argument to suggest that this move could actually SAVE and IMPROVE journalism for Rochdale. Proper journalism, not daft little blogs (like this) or Council Propaganda sheets like Local Matters, or shameless Pollyanna advertorials (furtively backed by the local Council) like the new Rochdale & Heywood Independent.
Journalism requires an element of objectivity and intelligence. It takes some thinking about. It is different from "churnalism" - the taking of professional press releases that are simply cut and pasted as copy.
Years ago, many saw the Rochdale Observer as a joke. It didn't reflect or report our town. It was patronising and blinkered by a local Establishment bias. The Great and the Good included mill owners, Freemasons, Curtain Theatre attending Rotarians, grammar school golfers and wife swapping businessmen. Ob readers - ordinary Rochdalians - were generally hard working folk who were made to know their place. Decades ago, the Rochdale Observer editorial policy tended to reflect that. There were no awkward investigations into wrong-doing or injustice. If local politicians were in the "Rochdale Observer Club" then they could get away with almost anything.
Then in 1970 came the Rochdale Alternative Press. A revelation to many in our town that knew that things were not as rosy as was stated in th'Ob.
New technology in the form of cheap lithographic printing opened up political speech and local debate. It was a product of its day: a time of radical, angry, long haired hippy types who had benefited from the 1948 Education Act and had got themselves a voice and an inquiring mind. In style, RAP was anti-establishment, cheeky and crude but acknowledged it was sometimes crass, preaching and up its own arse. An Oz of the North. It had the dangerous feel of a freethinking underground pamphlet. Thirty years after its last edition RAP is still remembered by many with affection.
One of its biggest scoops was The Strange Case of Smith the Man- the detailed investigation of the sex abuse allegations relating to Cyril Smith at Cambridge House lad's hostel. Smith never sued. The Rochdale Observer NEVER mentioned a word of the scandal.
Since the Rochdale Observer left its Drake Street home there has been a subtle shift in its reporting and editorial voice. It is as if the local Liberal Democrat strangle hold has slightly eased. Some dissent gets through. Some awkward questions are asked. This could be because of the physical distance from Rochdale (no more Lib Dem politicians barging through the office doors threatening the Editors? - fewer cosy chicken dinners at Freemason's Hall in Richard Street or quiet chats in the interlude at the Curtain Theatre?). It could be that the reporters are younger, less grounded locally and less deferential of the Old Local Establishment. The Law of Unintended Consequences may have helped - technology such as digital cameras, T'interweb emails and smartphones gives local people the chance to help journalists with sources of news in a way that doesn't need a trip to Drake Street or a professional PR letterhead. Finally there is the fact that readers' comments can be put online - allowing for a new type of feedback - raw, honest, irreverant and something that can grow organically into a bigger story. It is all quite fresh and imperfect and it is new ground for journalism.
Some lament the loss of a local office for local news - but take a look at the content of bygone Rochdale Observers - the traditional Ob fayre of photos of bonnie babies, pothole pointing politicians, the Ugly Page (drinkers "out on the town") and boy scouts rescuing cats from trees can be done over the phone and net.
Meanwhile, Paul Rowen's former spin doctor, Dave Hennigan, is back...
...only for a wee while, just to voice his opinion of the Trinity Mirror takeover.
His slipperly views are actually quite revealing. Remember, this is the little chap who wrote the front page grovelling apology in the Ob when Paul Rowen threatened to sue about reporting of his Parliamentary expenses in June 2009. It was a calucated gamble that saved Paul's bacon in the short run. (But as the facts come out about Rochdale Lib Dem finances it could become a problem that may bite him on his rosey cheeks).
For spin paramedic Dave Hennignan to lament local journalism is cunning bullshit. During the golden years of this shower's reign of spin - the controlling mind of the Rochdale Observer was the Stockport office of Richard Catlow.
So, although the Obby will be produced in Oldham by a national media title, perhaps our local newspaper will have a more robust voice?
Could the bad old days be over when allegations of serious sexual abuse are silenced?
The next time a piss poor politician, with mysterious revenue streams, tries to sue the Rochdale Observer, proper media lawyers from that there London could be on hand to defend proper journalism.
Could Kevin Maguire help out with the Trinity Mirror's newest regional title?