The independent London newspaper

It’s official: the Tribune is Britain’s best!

Judges at Regional Press Awards rule that newspaper is ‘superb’ as it crowns YOUR weekly as best free title in the entire country

26 June, 2020

Game Of Thrones actor Rose Leslie was among those paying tribute to the Tribune this week. She said: ‘Congratulations to the Islington Tribune. How brilliant! You are a fantastic local paper with great connections to the community. Keep fighting the good fight’

YOU are reading the best paper in the country, but you don’t have to take our word for it.

On Friday, the Islington Tribune was recognised in the best way possible with a prestigious gong at the Regional Press Awards, an event which is essentially the industry’s annual “Oscars”.

Less than 20 years after its first issue, the newspaper was crowned the winner of the Free Newspaper Of The Year award, even pipping its long-established sister title, the Camden New Journal, to the much-coveted prize.

Don’t worry, our colleagues across the desk – or videocalls, as it is at the moment – were delighted to offer hearty congratulations.

The Society of Editors, the organisers, said it had been determined to press on with its prize-giving even though its traditional gala reception had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus restrictions.

The health crisis means all local newspapers without exception are facing the toughest of all challenges, to not only survive the coronavirus crisis but to also make sure that journalists are there to tell the story of the pandemic and help those who need support.

Shirley Franklin, of the Defend the Whittington coalition: ‘It’s so helpful as campaigners to know the Tribune is there. Your commitment to the NHS and our beloved Whittington has been wonderful. You fully deserve this award’

It hasn’t been easy but now is clearly not the time to take reporters off the field of play and we have pledged to fill a role our readers rightfully expect us.

We may be distanced, but the Tribune, as so many organisations in Islington are, remains united in the response to find a way through this unprecedented emergency.

And there could be no stronger encouragement than Friday’s awards success.

Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury: ‘I want to congratulate everyone at the Tribune on this fantastic award, a richly deserved recognition of their brilliant journalism and campaigning, not just this year but every year.’

The event covers the entire United Kingdom, meaning the Tribune is up against and in the same company as the big beasts, newspapers with far bigger resources due to their ownership by large conglomerates.

Here in 2020, most local newspapers in the country are run by the same four or five firms, regardless of geography, with the Tribune – with the New Journal and stablemate the Westminster Extra – now among only a handful of surviving independent titles.

Former EastEnders actor Michelle Collins: ‘Congratulations. I think local papers are so important for the community. They make people feel connected on a more personal ­level. My mum relies on her local’

The idea in our offices is not to search for a bumper profit, it’s just to ensure costs are covered in providing the area with a challenging, community newspaper.

Among the awards shortlists, we were also one of only a small handful of London titles to be nominated, perhaps a sign which supports the concern that some areas of the capital are no longer served by a meaningful voice.

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn: ‘The Tribune should be walking tall with pride. It’s an absolutely brilliant newspaper which has been a fear­less, forthright and campaigning local news­paper from the start’

These are serious times if you value trusted sources of local news.

Without a ceremony, the announcements were made on a rolling internet broadcast.

Gongs went to the CNJ for “campaign of the year” following its work helping to save a city farm in Kentish Town from closure, and a special judges award to reporter Dan Carrier for organising an emergency food delivery operation during the virus crisis.

Community activist Valerie Bossman-Quarshie: ‘Sometimes there is the expression: You can’t trust journalists. For me. the Tribune, for years, has been factual, truthful and community focused. It’s a place that gives the people a voice’

When it came to the free newspaper of the year category, however, the Tribune stood on top of the podium, a happy upgrade from last year’s “highly commended” runners-up prize.

“This title shows that just because you are free that doesn’t mean you are not a superb newspaper,” the judges said.

“Packed with local news and investigations, the paper’s team shows how close it is to the community it serves.”

Ken Muller of Islington National Education Union: ‘The Tribune has a well informed and trustworthy group of journalists, always willing to hold power to account or speak truth to the power, and often take the side of the underdog’

They made special note of how the Tribune has campaigned for road safety improvements after the death of cyclists on the streets and how it has continually played a prime role in protecting the Whittington Hospital.

Our big red battle bus always stands ready for action. We will campaign again when the need arises.

Richard Watts

Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council ‘Islington is incredibly lucky to have the Tribune serving the borough. It does a great job holding people like me to account and campaigning for what is right. It is a bastion of the local community’

Another triumph last year was the race against the clock production to get the general election results out on the streets before any other paper.

Our 7.30am stop press edition back in December beat the nationals and other London papers to the constituency scores.

William Keegan, economics commentator for The Observer: ‘It is wonderful news that the Tribune has won this award. It is a great paper, in the tradition of local papers and essential reading. Long may it continue. Congratulations to all’

It’s become an enduring tradition on election night, whatever the result.

Islington’s MPs led a loud chorus of congratulations after the award results had been announced on Friday afternoon.

“At a time when the newspaper industry is under such enormous pressure, at a national and a local level, the Tribune continues to defy the odds each week by producing a paper of such unstinting quality and excellence,” said Emily Thornberry, the MP for Islington South.

Caroline Russell, Green councillor and London AM: ‘The judges singled out the Tribune’s role in scrutinising the Mayor of London on local road deaths. This is just one way that the Tribune has been a force for good in Islington’

“I want to congratulate everyone at the Tribune on this fantastic award, a richly-deserved recognition of their brilliant journalism, not just this year but every year.”

The Tribune began life in 2003 when the New Journal’s team decided to see if what had proved successful in Camden could work across the border in Islington.

That question has now been answered emphatically with an award that represents a pinnacle in the world of local newspapers.

Catherine West, MP and former council leader: ‘I remember when the Tribune started. From the beginning it was a very campaigning newspaper, extremely hard working and grassroots focussed – and always keen to get a scoop’

And it is the result of hard work with the team loyal to a “don’t go home until you’ve got the story” mentality.

We’ve been in council meetings, public meetings, courthouses, and, sadly, the taped off murder scenes too.

Bafta-winning scriptwriter Laurence Marks: ‘What the Tribune has done with the limited resources is nothing short of warranting the nation’s – or at least Islington’s – applause every Thursday night at seven o’clock’

The tagline remains: Open to all, coerced by none.

The award is recognition too for all those who have worked behind the bylines, as the paper grew from scratch: sub-editors, producers, the sales team and backroom admin staff, the family which has determinedly kept it going despite the unpredictable economic times.

Eilidh Murray of Cycle Islington: ‘Reporting of issues of concern to Islington cyclists and the wider community is key in raising local awareness. The Tribune’s impartial reporting is appreciated’

Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour Party leader and long-serving MP for Islington North, said: “I remember the foundation of the papers, including the Camden New Journal in 1982, and I have been through it all with you.

“You have been a fearless, forthright and campaigning local newspaper.”

Former council leader Terry Stacy MBE: ‘Many congratulations go to the Tribune for winning this award. It’s well deserved. Local papers are an important part of a thriving democracy and we are lucky to have it’

Richard Osley, the Tribune’s deputy editor, said: “Like so many, we are facing the challenge of our lives and are not immune to the effects of the pandemic. We are not blind to a mountain of hurdles and obstacles that lie ahead. The future, we have seen, is unpre­dictable but these awards act as another spur to keep going.”

David Hicks, father of Henry Hicks: ‘The Tribune is the only paper that told the truth about my son Henry [who died after police pursuit]. It helped my family. It doesn’t write rubbish and I take my hat off to it’

He added: “It may sound like a cliché, but it will always remain the case that the paper’s success is built on the support of its readers: both encouraging us and challenging us. We’d like to thank them for their ongoing support.”

Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, said: “Anyone looking at the breadth and scale of the entries for this year’s awards will recognise the tremendous and vital role the sector plays in our nation.”

Readers will always be our ‘owners’, not shareholders

WHAT is the difference between the Islington Tribune and its sister papers, and most other newspapers?

They report views other papers are often silent on. They give voice to the unheard.

The newspapers are different in other ways, too. They were not set up on the whim of an individual or the planned venture of investors.

They are not privately owned. They grew organically out of the community following an industrial dispute in which the owners of the original Camden New Journal closed it down.

The Whittington Hospital campaign

The staff refused to accept this as did the community in Camden – and eventually the owner passed on the title. This was launched in 1982.

Such was the enthusiasm for the paper that volunteers distributed thousands of copies of it weekly until it found its feet.

Since 1982 it has almost become an institution in Camden, and then in 2003 the Islington Tribune was established.

It has already fought several campaigns, perhaps most famously two successes in saving sell-offs at the Whittington Hospital.

There have also been the charming stories: the interview with a Big Issue seller whose friendship with his cat was turned into a movie.

Rose Hacker

A place in the records book, meanwhile, was reserved for our late writer Rose Hacker, who was the world’s oldest columnist aged 100.

During all this time the staff have remained loyal to the ethos of the series – a belief in the need for a fairer and egalitarian society.

And, through the years, they have remained loyal to the readers who, in the final analysis, are the true owners of the papers.

There is a dark shadow now on the horizon, however. A crisis, long brewing, has now gripped the British press – a combination of an economic crash and the results of the Covid pandemic.

To face these threats most of the companies owning the regional press took the easy way out.

James Bowen and Bob the cat

Instead of retrench­ment by cutting profits and dividends to share­holders and thus trying to steady the ship, they turned immediately to cutting staff and in scores of cases closing titles, no matter the conse­quences for the public or the staff.

We have no shareholders. We run an organisation with an acceptable differential pay structure. So far, we have not cut staff. And we have been supported, in the main, by government bodies, civic institutions, local authorities and public organisations, who have kept on advertising – as well, of course, by our readers – to whom we owe our thanks.

We have been buffeted by many storms since the New Journal’s launch 38 years ago and survived in Camden, Islington and Westminster because we fulfil a need for the community who wish to support us.

We have plans for the future – and one of them will be the establish­ment of a kind of Members’ Club which readers will be able to join and support.

We look forward to the coming years knowing that together with the community we can succeed.

The Editor


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