We’re delighted to announce that Flyover Media CIC begins trading today. We publish two community websites in southeast London – 853.london and charltonchampion.co.uk – and we hope that setting up Flyover Media will help them go from strength to strength, and enable us to look at other projects.
Everybody knows the market for local news is in serious and deep trouble. Its business model – based around local advertising – has been wrecked by online rivals, while cherished news brands have been fatally weakened by many years of cost-cutting by corporate owners.
In south-east London, we’ve seen this with our own eyes, with the demise of the 185-year-old Greenwich Mercury confirmed today by its disappearance from the newsstands, absorbed into a weakened South London Press. The final indignity for the Mercury was its owners not even allowing it to break the news of its own demise – 853 had to do that instead. Meanwhile, its rival, the News Shopper – a mere 54 years old – is a pale shadow of what it used to be, ripped to shreds by cutbacks at its owner, Newsquest.
Yet the need for local news and analysis has never been greater. Much of Greenwich borough is changing at a pace unseen since World War II – yet you wouldn’t know it if you clicked on the News Shopper website, or leafed through an old copy of the Mercury. The same applies in neighbouring Lewisham, and will soon apply in Bexley as the pace of development grows.
853 started as a personal blog written by Darryl Chamberlain, a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience, but has evolved over the years to become a website trusted by thousands of southeast Londoners for bringing news you won’t see elsewhere, holding power to account robustly, but fairly. Over 100 local people help fund 853, turning the site into a part-time job for Darryl, but also helping form the basis for Flyover’s launch. We’re incredibly grateful for their help. (You can join them here.)
The Charlton Champion, edited by Darryl together with Neil Clasper, is a community site for one small, but frequently overlooked corner of southeast London. Again, local people help fund this, and we’re very grateful for their help. (You can join them here.)
Both our sites are part of the Independent Community News Network, which has been an invaluable source of help and assistance.
We’re launching Flyover to bring clarity to how the sites are financed, but also to look at getting funding for new projects. We’re looking at broadening 853’s reporting to cover Lewisham borough issues, and we’re also investigating possibilities for a new print publication to cover part of Greenwich borough.
As well as funding, we’re looking for people who can help us. We know there are journalists in southeast London who want to give something back to their communities – can you help? Are you a sales whizz? We could do with your sweet talking. And we’ll also be looking for trustees, to keep an eye on us as we apply for grants.
Flyover is a community interest company – all profits must be reinvested back into the business, and we have to account for our activities to a regulator each year. And we’re proud to be following in the footsteps of our north London friends at Social Spider CIC (publishers of the Tottenham Community Press, Waltham Forest Echo and Enfield Dispatch) and fellow south Londoners at Brixton Media CIC (the team behind Brixton Bugle/Blog) – we thank them for their help and advice in getting us started.
We’re really excited to be starting this, and we’ll hope you’ll join us at our launch event in June – date and details to be confirmed soon. We’ll be talking about the state of local news and what we – and you – can do about it.
For now, let’s get to work.