David-and-Goliath triumph of newspaper which gives voice to those struggling to be heard
Deputy editor Richard Osley on the aims of the Camden New Journal, and the challenges ahead
25 May, 2018 — By Richard Osley
Camden New Journal staff in Camden Town
IT’S not a job that will make you rich or famous. Nobody at the Camden New Journal owns a sports car or a second home in France.
The newspaper has never been motivated by an ambition to feather a bank account. There are no unseen shareholders waiting in the shadows for their dividends at the end of the year, or group executives in a boardroom coldly marking the worth of its journalists by figures on a spreadsheet.
No, our newspaper operates from a slightly rustic office in Camden Town with the basic ambition that there should be an independent newspaper in our area. One that tries to be open to all, with the equality that comes with free distribution. We try each week to create a newspaper which reports, investigates, campaigns and sometimes entertains, and, as romantic as it may sound, to provide a level playing field for those struggling to be heard.
This enduring aim is rooted in the foundation of the newspaper 36 years ago, born as it was from strike action and a community demand that it should not lose its voice. People marched to “Save The Journal” at the start of the 1980s, and in that sense we are still in debt to them, and all who have supported it since.
Sometimes that help may come by way of news stories, sometimes with advertising and sometimes simply by adding to a debate over a current issue by writing letters for publication. Behind the New Journal sign, there is a team I’m proud to belong to, friends who have collectively clocked up decades of service together. It has been compared to a co-op style of working.
Certainly, it is a newsroom which unites, however pressured things may get on deadline day. While so many local newspapers are now bound up in the same four or five companies and offer identikit papers which look uniformly the same, the New Journal, still edited by one of its founders Eric Gordon, tries to be different.
Former reporters working for national outlets and broadcasters look back fondly on their time here, and new recruits learn the profession on the job, hopefully finding a path away from the cheap ‘clickbait’ or persecutory press that pervades so much of our national media.
So it’s true our greatest resource is not finance, it’s our staff and even more so our readers, who are unofficial editors, supporting us and critiquing us in healthy measure. This is why there is a David and Goliath element to our success at the nationwide awards this week.
There are already areas in London and the rest of the United Kingdom where no local newspaper exists as the social media giants corner the ad market. And there are unprecedented challenges ahead for the CNJ and its sister titles, Islington Tribune and Westminster Extra. New models for the long-term may be required. Some of those who see the value in what we do are already sponsoring New Journal projects with a twin aim of using the paper’s unrivalled connections for their advertising but also simply to support the need for a local newspaper which strives for better.
Last week, judges at the Regional Press Awards, in a room full of titles with bigger profits and budgets, described us as even more than that. It was a fitting tribute to all those who have played their part over the years, and particularly in the last 12 months.