Camden New Journal considers board of community trustees to preserve its mission

Posted on: November 16, 2020 by admin

It is the newspaper which has bucked industry trends for nearly 40 years — and now the title’s founding editor has suggested they have every intention of continuing to pioneer different ways of support local journalism, writes Behind Local News.

The Camden New Journal celebrated its 2000th edition this week. It began life in 1982 under founding editor Eric Gordon following a two-year strike at its predecessor, the Camden Journal.

Back in 1980, the Journal’s nine journalists had been told their paper was going to close — and along with colleagues, decided to fight back. It ultimately led to journalists being offered the Camden Journal title for £1, with the New Journal appearing for the first time on March 25, 1982.

And while much has changed in the newspaper industry since then, Eric wrote in the paper this week that the CNJ had stayed true to its beliefs — operating as a non-profit publication which has made it through the current pandemic without cutting jobs or editions of either the CNJ or its sister title, the Islington Tribune.

Now bosses at the title are looking at creating a board of trustees, to ensure the title always remains true to the principles it was founded with.

Eric wrote: “We believe fervently in the powers of democracy and debate — that is why we pioneered the well-known letters pages from residents, unmatched in our opinion, and led several public campaigns to save University College Hospital in the 1990s from closure, a similar fate for the Whittington Hospital A&E, and support most council tenants who opposed a plan to transfer them to an outside management team.

“We are exploring the idea that, apart from the internal procedures at the newspaper, there should be an outside body of “trustees”, representing the community, which would act as a kind of “parental” body aimed at keeping an eye, as it were, on the newspaper to ensure that it followed, as a faithfully as possible, the aims and principles that led to its birth in 1982.

“It’s a radical step, still to be tested.

“It would mean that the community, as a whole, would play a part in the life of the newspaper, in a way it has never done before — it would not, and should not, infringe on the basics of press freedom, but simply have a voice to make sure we remain independent and adherents to the principles of those idealists so long ago.”

Those ideals have helped the CNJ through the current pandemic, Eric wrote.

“What could be said to set us apart from practically every other mainstream medium? Principally, we do not exist simply in terms of production for profit. We are not privately owned. We have no shareholders or proprietor who, effectively, dictate what happens with the newspaper.

“That, essentially, along with our commitment to do our best to truthfully report events locally and always willing to hold the local authority or other powers to account, is the reason why we believe we have been accepted by the community.

“In the face of the health and economic crisis, owners of other local weeklies have slashed staff, closed titles, anything to protect their profit base. We have avoided all that carnage.”

In April, the title ran a front page leader which criticised other publishers for making use of the Government’s furlough scheme. It also praised local councils for continuing to advertise extensively in the CNJ during the pandemic.

In the summer, the CNJ’s sister paper was named free newspaper of the year at the Regional Press Awards, while the CNJ’s Dan Carrier was given a special award for co-ordinating a mammoth effort by the paper to deliver emergency aid packages across its circulation area during the first lockdown.

This article first appeared on Behind Local News.