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Council boss hits out at "bad news" paper

A fresh war of words has broken out over council newspapers as publisher Sir Ray Tindle claimed one of his titles had lost £500,000 in ad revenues since he bought it.

The South London Press, which Sir Ray bought from Trinity Mirror in 2007, has found its revenues under attack from Lambeth Borough Council’s free in-house publication, Lambeth Life.

In a piece featured on the ITV regional news magazine programme London Tonight, Press editor Hannah Walker branded the freesheet “political propaganda” and said the council should stop behaving like a “publishing house.”

But council leader Steve Reed hit back by claiming the Press was a “bad news paper” that failed to reflect the positive aspects of life in the borough.

Ms Walker said: “What shouldn’t be happening in my opinion is local councils setting themselves up as publishing houses.”

She said the council publication was “full of propaganda and good stories for them.”

But Mr Reed responded: “It would help if they could be a little more positive about the area. The South London Press has become a paper for bad news.”

Interviewed during the same programme, Sir Ray said his company had lost “over half a million pounds” on the SLP, although it is understood he was referring to lost ad revenues rather than overall profit-and-loss.

The programme highlighted the fact that of the 32 London Boroughs, 30 of them now produce their own in-house publications.

It also revealed that, of these, 90pc now carry advertising.


Mike (23/11/2009 14:16:14)
Would Trinity Mirror have sold it if it was a goldmine? Probably not. Caveat emptor…

Colin (23/11/2009 16:19:15)
Mike, I think there is a bit more to it than that. Councils set up their own newspapers not because they felt the existing newspapers couldn’t reach a wide enough audience, but because the existing papers weren’t “on message” enough. What these councils don’t realise is that regular members of the public are very sceptical of what is said by councils, often for good reason, and this is reflected by the local newspaper. I don’t for a second believe the sole reason for Lambeth Council setting up a newspaper was to report the positive parts of Lambeth life which the SLP was missing. The SLP does carry positive news, it always has done, but, like all newspapers, it won’t just pander to what the council considers to be positive news – the propaganda about itself. People aren’t daft, they know when a council is spinning them a line, which is why the councils try so hard to dress up their propoganda sheets as regular newspapers. A pound says that Lambeth Life won’t report criticism about itself, or the impact of the various cutbacks it will impose as spending gets tighter – yet it still finds the cash to try and drive an existing firm out of business. What a sorry state

Colin (23/11/2009 16:20:29)
I did, of course, mean progaganda

IJ (24/11/2009 12:32:03)
The SLP does have more crime than, say, the Chichester Observer, but that’s simply a reflection on the area. It’s a tough market, in both senses. You’d be hard pushed to find an editor who is more passionate about campaigns and community issues than Hannah.

Jon (24/11/2009 16:12:13)
There’s a simple way of sorting out whether councils are right when they claim their residents want more positive news – charge for their own publications. If council newspapers had a cover price then it would not only prove (through sales figures) whether anyone wants to read them but it would have the added bonus of bringing down the cost to taxpayers of printing and distributing these “newspapers”.
If council leaders are so confident their publications are wanted, read and popular why don’t they put their confidence to the test?? Wonder why there won’t be any takers for that idea??