A Lobby journalist has helped to revive a not-for-profit community newspaper, giving the London borough of Lambeth its own dedicated print outlet once more.
Josiah Mortimer, who works part-time as co-editor of left-wing political news website Left Foot Forward, stepped in as editor of Lambeth Life which has not been in print since summer 2019.
The newspaper is owned by publisher Ibrahim Dogus, a restaurateur and Labour councillor who runs the beloved-by-journalists British Kebab Awards, but Mortimer said he had “full autonomy” over its pages.
He told Press Gazette: “I was asked to revive it and see what the local interest was and whether we could get it going. Lambeth isn’t particularly well-served in terms of news outlets.
[Read more: At least 265 UK local newspapers closed since 2005]
“There are some really strong local blogs covering Brixton but it’s patchy elsewhere, so if we were to get it going again it would be the only print newspaper for the borough.
“I put a call out to the local community, charities etc and there was a massive influx of potential stories and amazing stuff that’s been going on over the last year, really inspiring stuff actually – countless food projects and environmental campaigns, a whole host of mutual aid stuff that’s been going on and a lot of it bubbling away without attracting much attention – and I just thought it would be really positive to give some of that a voice and share some positivity and some good news.”
Lambeth, which includes the neighbourhoods of Waterloo, Brixton, Clapham and Vauxhall, was one of the areas highlighted as having no local news provision in a Government report published last year that linked local newspaper circulation with electoral turnout and warned that the absence of journalism in some areas was potentially “catastrophic”.
The area does have some hyperlocal blogs, including the Brixton Buzz, but no dedicated print presence. The monthly Brixton Bugle suspended print production at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic last year and has yet to return.
The ad-funded Lambeth Life is being distributed for free to 10,000 households and businesses from today (Tuesday).
“Already, without having it sent out, there’s been such a good reaction and it’s definitely created a conversation about the need for more local journalism here,” Mortimer, who lives in Brixton, said.
Lambeth is a busy news patch which has recently seen the murder of Sarah Everard and a vigil that sparked national debate about its policing. Today it is one of two areas in the country urging residents to get tested for the South African Covid-19 variant.
Discussions are ongoing about how to ensure the paper can be produced and become a sustainable business proposition, but the hope is to continue publishing monthly, Mortimer said.
The website – which broke the story of an alleged flashing at Everard’s vigil that was picked up by national media – is also benefiting from a revamp, but Mortimer described it as a “print-first relaunch”.
“I think there’s real potential here,” he said.