AddThis SmartLayers

Editor appeals for new backer after being forced to take newspaper online only

Neil SpeightAn independent newspaper founder forced to go online only has launched a bid to find a new backer in order to go back into print.

Thurrock Independent editor Neil Speight, left, ceased weekly publication of the newspaper in November, but has since attempted to revive the title in monthly and fortnightly forms.

Neil continues to run a news website under the Independent name, and is undertaking bar work in order to supplement his income.

The Independent’s print edition had been published on a monthly basis in February, March and April, and Neil went fortnightly in May.

But he told HTFP: “Unfortunately I have not been able to sustain it, largely because while I can do the editorial, the production and even the delivery – I did a few thousand letter boxes a week myself – I just can’t find anyone to sell for me.

“I have tried to find a backer so we can build on the brand we have built over two years but sadly, and understandably, it’s difficult to find people willing to commit to what may be a good idea but could turn out to be a big money pit in the short to medium term.

“Over two years of publishing we have always been near to break even (occasionally even turning a weekly profit) but not quite there and at the end of the day I’ve pumped every penny I’ve got into it and more – hence I may have to go bankrupt, but I just ran out of funds.

“I still think there’s a market for a local printed press, but you need a team to produce it and I can’t sustain that team on my own for long enough for us to get into regular profit. Close, but no cigar as they say, but it’s not something I regret having a go at.”

Neil’s appeal to find a new backer comes after an investigation by the Independent prompted Thurrock Council to apologise to local businesses and refund fictitious fixed penalty notices given by a “rogue enforcement officer” from a firm working on the authority’s behalf.

Neil added: “I passionately believe we need a proper local press network, or else democracy will be eroded. Gossip social media such as Facebook is clouding everything and – for once I share a view with President Trump – fake news abounds. I intend to keep the website going and that in itself is actually breaking even.

“I have a young man working with me to get through an NCTJ college course who contributes, so I am still helping propagate good journalists – I hope – so that alone make it worth doing and when I get a result like today, it feels even more worthwhile. I would love to bring back the print edition, but we will see.

“Hopefully fortune may yet favour the brave in some way. Meantime, I’m pulling a few shifts behind a local bar to supplement the income and what I get from Universal Credit. Living life in the front line as it were.”


You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.
  • June 19, 2019 at 11:10 am

    Brave man, and may he find his backer and get it all back on track.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(10)
  • June 19, 2019 at 11:39 am

    Neil, you’re breaking even with your website. Focus on that. Print is costly and clearly not sustainable in your area.

    Stop flogging your print dead horse and focus on the online offering you have created and tackle the “gossip social media” head on.

    You can be the trusted source of online news in Thurrock.

    Others are doing it, you can do it too. The very best of luck to you.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(14)
  • June 19, 2019 at 11:52 am

    It’s a sad fact – but true – that certain staples of the industry’s lexicon have disappeared. Long gone are terms such as ‘stop press’ ‘hot metal’ and ‘city final’.
    What next you may ask?
    Isn’t it patently obvious?
    The word ‘newspaperman’ (or woman) will soon be in journalism’s version of Room 101.
    Soon to be overtaken by clickbater or clickbatrix…..

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(8)
  • June 19, 2019 at 11:59 am

    The website is of a decent quality because I am spending time on it. Unfortunately I will not have that time available going forward. It breaks even in terms of direct cost but won’t sustain an income for me, nor, if I am honest, is it what I wish to do.
    At the end of the day, and I have no real problem with HTFP’s interpretation, I didn’t really ‘appeal for a new backer’. That came up after I flagged up the investigation story to HTFP and then they asked for some info about the state of the business and I told it as it is.
    I have gone out there cap in hand.
    I am not expecting anything, just reflecting the fact that lots of local people want to see a paper and there are people who want to advertise in it. The brand’s established, if anyone wants it to add on to something else they can have it, That’s the only realistic way it can go forward unless I win the lottery, which won’t happen as I can’t afford a ticket lol!
    The real point I was trying to make is that without a strong and free press the significant erosion of democracy in this country will continue.
    At the end of the day I will keep doing what I can but I’ve got a couple of day’s labouring to do cleaning scaffolding poles. Honest labour and fair pay – it’s quite refreshing!

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(23)
  • June 20, 2019 at 10:28 am

    It’s independent papers like this and genuine newspaper proprietors like Neil who need the help and support when subsidised staff are being given out, not the dying bigger groups who’ve cut jobs, closed offices and consolidated roles to offset loses over years due t their own bad management.
    Good luck to Neil in whatever course of action he takes going forward

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(13)
  • June 20, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Neil, it’s refreshing to see someone who wants something for the good of the truth and not to line their own pocket. Some other media bosses need to adopt this strategy for the good of us all going forward and not so much focus on their own ends to the detriment of the industry and truth as a whole.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(2)