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Observer In Spotlight As GMG Wrestles With Downturn

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How do you solve a problem like Observer? Guardian Media Group isn’t commenting on reports in The Sunday Times and Financial Times that it could “close” the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper.

FT.com says GMG’s Guardian News & Media, which operates The Guardian as well as The Observer but which “exists to secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity”, is writing a three-year strategy plan. One element, both reports say, has been to produce a dummy copy of an Observer weekly news magazine, published on a Thursday; The Times says a compromise has been found to continue publishing a “slimmed-down” version of the Sunday newspaper, which had an average 409,970 circulation in June.

The whistle appears to have been blown by alarmed senior Observer journalists. A weekly news mag may pit The Observer against the likes of Newsweek, The Economist and the New Statesman; but the reports say nothing’s yet decided. After reporting an £89.8 million annual loss for GMG on Friday, CEO Carolyn McCall said: “Can we afford it this year? Yes, but can we afford it for the next three years? No.