Ten staff at an award-winning weekly newspaper have taken over as its new owners in what is believed to be a first in the UK local press.
The workers from the West Highland Free Press this week completed a takeover of the independent title from the original five shareholders who set it up in 1972.
The landmark transfer of ownership brings to an end over 12 months of negotiations between staff, funders and the shareholders and ensures the title remains independently owned and embedded in its community.
Free Press editor Ian McCormack said: “This is an exciting development. We will work to ensure that the main aim of the company remains the publication of a top-class newspaper with first-rate staff writers, photographers, production and advertising and admin people as well as some of the best columnists in Scotland.
“We hope the Free Press will continue to inform, entertain and challenge its readers. At the same time we look forward to continuing to provide rewarding employment for local people and to working with the community.”
The paper, which employs 13 staff, was launched 37 years ago by Jim Innes, Jim Wilkie, Dave Scott, Donald MacIntyre and founding editor Brian Wilson, also a Labour MP between 1987 and 2005.
In February it picked up four awards at the annual Highland and Islands Media Awards.
Brian said: “This is the right thing to do and the right time to do it. We wanted the paper to remain independent while offering a great opportunity to the employees who have served it loyally.
“I am sure that the Free Press will continue to flourish on the basis of quality journalism, service to the community and sound commercial management.”
Director Paul Wood added: “The successful move to employee ownership marks a significant achievement for the staff of the Free Press and apt reward for the hard work, skill and loyalty they have shown the company.
“It also marks a defining moment in UK newspaper ownership. At a time when the wider industry is in difficulty, I hope this sends out a clear message that there is a future for newspapers that provide quality and informed content of interest to its readership.
“The move to employee ownership sits easily with what I feel the paper stands for and leaves a legacy in our hands for the community and to all future employees of the company for generations to come.”
Paul (29/10/2009 15:15:12)
Congratulations to the new owners. It may be the way forward for local papers. There may not in the future be the profits for the big companies to want to own newspapers but there is probably enough revenue to support a locally-run and owned newspaper in many towns in Britain. It’s going back to the way we were
David (29/10/2009 16:37:45)
I heard this announcement on Radio Scotland this morning. Was pretty impressed. I love to hear whe employees can take the initiative and have a say in their own futures. Well done to all concerned
Mike Wedge (30/10/2009 09:45:05)
At last – the tide is turning. Let’s get newspapers out of the hands of accountants and back under the control of those who believe in what they stand for. I firmly believe local print media has a future, but only if it gets back to its roots.
Old Hack (30/10/2009 10:15:47)
Congratulations. A real story of journalistic enterprise to tell at last.
Observer (30/10/2009 11:39:10)
I think we all have a stake in hoping this works. Prove it’s viable and many others will follow. Best of luck.
Dave Allen (30/10/2009 12:02:46)
At last a good news story about newspapers. Well done to the new owners from downunder!