AddThis SmartLayers

‘Corruption thrives in dark’ warns closed weekly’s chief reporter

Charles Thomson 1The chief reporter of a newspaper which closed last week has urged the public to “support your local press” warning that “corruption thrives in the dark.”

Charles Thomson, left, has said farewell to the Yellow Advertiser after it ceased publication on 20 June, with between 15 and 20 staff understood to have been affected.

As reported by HTFP last week, the Basildon-based Advertiser’s closure came weeks after it won two honours at last month’s Regional Press Awards for its long-running investigation into a paedophile ring.

But the paper went out “with a bang” with its final edition including an exclusive related to the three-year-long investigation, while news of two local campaign victories also featured.

Charles, who was named Weekly Reporter of the Year at last month’s awards, has reflected on the paper’s campaigning history in a farewell column which has been published on the title’s still-live website.

In the piece, published on Friday, he wrote: “Last week’s Yellow Advertiser was the last edition in print. Many tears were shed, but we have a talented, hard-working team and I’m confident they will all land on their feet. So the greatest sorrow I feel is for the loss of the paper itself, and the valuable service it provided to our readers.

“If you want to know why, just look at our final edition. We couldn’t be more proud of our final paper. The last YA exemplified everything which has made our brand great for the past 43 years. It was packed with nationally significant investigative reporting and positive local changes secured by our journalism.

“In our final edition, Basildon Council’s new administration said our reporting had inspired it to throw out a planning application, saving Markhams Chase Recreation Ground from the bulldozers. In the same edition, the council’s Tory opposition also praised the YA, saying our reporting had sped up repair works at Billericay Pool, ensuring it would reopen by the end of the year. Two local victories secured by our intervention. What a way to go out.”

Added Charles: “On the front page was the end of the current chapter of our investigation into the alleged cover-up of a massive paedophile ring, which operated out of Shoebury in the 1980s.

“One day after our head office informed the YA that it was in consultation over possible closure, we won a lengthy legal battle against Government to obtain the full criminal record of Dennis King, the notorious child molester who ran the Shoebury ring. We secured that victory with just hours to spare before our final papers had to be sent to the printers.”

Charles went on to provide further examples of “the sort of dedicated reporting which has seen the YA win awards hand over fist for decades”, adding the “investigative ethos has never left the YA”.

He wrote: “Our local journalism was so strong, it was considered to be of national significance – and that is the greatest loss in this situation: the professional, thorough scrutiny of councils, police forces and other local powers which can only be provided by a dedicated, diligent newspaper team. The pain for our staff will be short-term, but the loss of the democratic scrutiny we provided is forever.

“From everyone here at the YA, thank you for the last 43 years. It has been a pleasure to serve you. Thanks for all the letters, all the tip-offs, all the generous support of our campaigns.

“And please, support your local press. Corruption thrives in the dark.”

His piece can be read in full here.