Veteran newspaper entrepreneur Sir Ray Tindle has praised journalists at the South London Press after they launched seven new editions in the space of six working days.
As reported last week, Tindle Newspapers has launched seven separate hyperlocal titles in key areas of the existing SLP patch.
The new paid-for weeklies hit the streets for the first time today with Sir Ray organising a launch party at its Streatham offices to mark the occasion.
And in a Churchillian speech, Sir Ray described the efforts of SLP staff over the past fortnight as “their finest hour.”
The new titles will circulate in Streatham, Brixton, Wimbledon, Wandsworth, Dulwich, Deptford & New Cross and Forest Hill & Sydenham.
SLP managing director Peter Edwards told guests: “This project to produce hyper-local newspapers for specific communities in South London has made a huge contribution to securing the future of this iconic and much-loved newspaper title.”
Editor Hannah Walker said the Diamond Jubilee had provided an ideal launch pad for the seven titles.
The full text of Sir Ray’s speech can be read below.
Honoured guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
A fortnight ago this afternoon I called everyone together and discussed with these good people standing here before you the major problems facing the whole Press and including the South London Press in particular. At 4 o’clock I suggested a possible course of action. I asked them if they would launch six hyperlocal weekly newspapers in 14 days to try to solve the two biggest problems in one go – falling circulation and falling revenue.
One of my close Farnham colleagues also here, whispered to me – its not 14 days you’re giving them. This Friday’s already gone. The SLP goes to press on Thursday so that’s two days short. Then there’s two Sundays, two Saturdays and two Bank Holidays in that fortnight so you’re asking for six new newspapers in six working days.
“You couldn’t ask any newspaper to do that,” my colleague said.
But I said, “This isn’t any newspaper. This is the South London Press. They’re very tough here.”
“How can you be sure?” asked my colleague.
I replied “I can be sure because
1. I was born in the South London Press area
2. I grew up in the South London Press area
3. I went to primary, junior and grammar schools in the South London Press area
4. In 1940 I went through the Blitz in the South London Press area
5. In 1942 I was bombed out of the South London Press area
That’s how I know that the South London people are tough! But they are not only tough, they are some of the best newspapermen and women in the industry.
They all knew the Press was facing some real difficulties at this time. I emphasized that the downward slide in circulation which affected so many newspapers must be tackled urgently, as must the fall in revenue. Everyone realized we must make immediate changes if we were to complete a second 150 years of service to our readers and to South London. They had heard all the pessimism and carping criticism from others but what the South London Press wanted was positive thinking and action.
And so I challenged them to cover the SLP footprint with six somewhat different London local papers in six working days while retaining the best of our 1865 highly respected paper. Let me now tell our honoured guests that in fact the Managing Director, Peter Edwards, Editor-in-Chief, Hannah Walker, the Advertisement, Circulation and I.T. and other executives and every single member of staff here worked like Trojans and not only did six new hyperlocal newspapers in six days – but just to put me in my place – they did seven!
So what was one paper for 147 years until last week is today eight papers. You can see those papers in this room. If you look them through you’ll see we had some assistance from The Queen who’s Diamond Jubilee just happened to fall in the 14 days! Just see how my colleagues handled the local angle of the Jubilee.
The UK has the finest Press in the world and without any doubt we have the finest newspapermen and newspaperwomen you can find anywhere. What more proof do you want?
The staff of the South London Press pulled off this first-ever feat without hesitation. My heartfelt thanks go out to them now. These are, of course, first editions and Hannah and the staff will tell you they can only get better over the next weeks but I say we are looking at an incredible feat by a fantastic band of newspaper-men and women. I am proud of them all.
I promised them a party today if it came off. I asked Wendy to find 100 bottles of bubbly with an appropriate SLP celebratory label. In the short time available she found one firm that could supply the drink but without the label, and one firm that could supply the celebratory labels but weren’t too sure what the wine would be, except that it would be expensive.
I said to Wendy: “Our honoured guests are at the very top of this newspaper industry of ours, so they’ll know their wines and we must be very careful.” But then I thought “They’ve never been offered a label like this one before so, goodness knows what’s in it but please take a bottle with you.”
Our guests are:
1. Geraldine Allinson is the President of the Newspaper Society.
2. Bob Satchwell is the Director of the Society of Editors.
3. Lynne Anderson is the Communications & Marketing Director of the Newspaper Society.
4. Chris Oakley has come especially from France to be with us today. Chris is the man who wrote that very interesting chapter on local press ownership which hit the headlines a month or two ago.
We are delighted that you all came here to be with us on what is a unique event. I truly believe that although there has been much talk of hyperlocal newspapers being the future, the South London Press may be the first to have added hyperlocal content to their old established paper in 6 days and thus produced these hyperlocals while retaining the best of the old established publication. Is this the way forward? We hope it may be. It has certainly made a big splash here in South London.
Everyone here played a major role in this transformation. Everyone. Every single member of staff.
Ladies and gentlemen of the South London Press I am deeply grateful to you all. But perhaps two of the main leaders Peter Edwards, the Managing Director and Hannah Walker the Editor in Chief (both of them are marvellous people as my Farnham colleagues, Brian, Wendy, Sue, Gerry and Marian all agree) will say just a few words about what they and their colleagues have done, before our guests comment if they would care to do so.
I will not steal their thunder. They will tell you how they did it and with what results. But allow me to say one more thing about these last few days.
I feel sure Winston Churchill would not mind me adapting a sentence from one of his famous speeches.
I want to say to our honoured guests, speaking of the Managing Director, Editor-in-Chief, executives and the entire staff of this newspaper, that if the South London Press lasts for 1000 years men will still say ‘this was their finest hour’!
Thank you all once again.