Calling news journalists! Can you help us tell SE London’s coronavirus stories?

We’re delighted and thrilled to announce that Flyover Media, the publisher of 853 and The Charlton Champion, has been awarded a grant to help us report on the continuing effects of the coronavirus pandemic in SE London.

The €5,000 grant comes from the European Journalism Covid-19 Support Fund, which has been set up to support independent reporting across the continent.

While the existing regional media outlets covering SE London let reporters go during the pandemic, Flyover – which is funded by over 110 readers of 853 and The Charlton Champion – invested in bringing freelance reporters on board to talk to people making a difference during the crisis.

This work has now been recognised with the award. We join organisations in Manchester, Leeds and Portsmouth, among others, as British recipients of this money.

We’ve been given the money to cover stories in the boroughs of Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley – boroughs that effectively have no local media of their own – although we’re happy to blur the boundaries a little if a story is directly relevant to the people of those three boroughs. There will also be a special focus in Charlton to serve the community who read The Charlton Champion.

We wouldn’t have got to this point without continued help from our readers – we’re very grateful for their help. We will shortly be asking them for their help in finding the stories to write about.

Who’s writing the stories?

We’re delighted to have been joined by Tom Bull, the former local democracy reporter for Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley; and Emily Finch, a former reporter for the Islington Tribune.

Tom was travelling in Belize on a career break when the pandemic hit and managed to get a flight out before England went into lockdown. So far he’s written about Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice, how Blackheath’s Age Exchange charity has been changed by lockdown and the remarkable work of a Charlton cafe owner making meals for the vulnerable at the height of the crisis.

Emily’s work on the Tribune helped it win a prestigious industry award last month. Now she’s freelancing, and has covered how musicians have had to adapt, and community efforts to make facemasks for key workers.

Site editor Darryl Chamberlain will be co-ordinating and editing the stories as well as trying to keep up with the normal news agenda.

Are you a journalist at a loose end?

However, we will need more help get SE London’s coronavirus stories told. We’re interested in hearing from people with news reporting experience and who are familiar with the boroughs of Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley to help us with this project.

You’d be responsible for talking to people, writing their stories and sourcing good quality photos – something that is very important for this site. We’d be especially delighted to hear from experienced reporters who come from groups and communities that are poorly represented in news media.

And yes, the grant means we can pay you. Drop us a line at tell853something[at] if you’re interested.

Why did we go for the grant?

853 has just one part-time reporter/editor (that’s me, Darryl), while The Charlton Champion is run in our spare time. We talk to lots of people, but rarely have the time to actually sit down and interview them. In the first few weeks of the coronavirus crisis, it became apparent that there was very little reporting of community initiatives – so Tom Bull came on board to help out. We published the Old Cottage Cafe story two weeks into the lockdown, and we’ve kept going since then.

The grant means that while others in our area have cut back, we can tell local people’s stories during this time – just like local papers used to do. We’ve actually been so busy that it’s taken us a few weeks to get around to announcing the grant, although we’ve paid for, commissioned and published pieces already.

Other outlets supported by the fund include the West Leeds Dispatch (which is using the money to go into print), Portsmouth’s Star & Crescent, the Manchester Meteor and ViewDigital, a social affairs publisher in Northern Ireland. A number of freelance projects around Europe are also being supported along with a plethora of other outlets. We’re proud to be listed among them and are looking forward to seeing what they do – just as we’re excited about our own project.


Talking about our future plans

Our meeting last week
A chat in the pub. (Picture: Chris Taylor)

Thank you to all of those people who gave up their Tuesday evening last week to join us at The White Swan in Charlton for our launch event. We’re particularly grateful to Emma Meese of Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism, Kathryn Geels of the Engaged Journalism Accelerator, James Hatts of and Peter Cordwell, former editor of the Greenwich Mercury, for speaking.

We hope that Tuesday night gave a flavour of what we’re planning to do in the future. Our two sites, 853 and The Charlton Champion, will continue and will be improved over time – including, we hope, making our advertising open to local businesses.

We’ve two initial plans: one is to expand 853’s reporting into Lewisham by finding someone who can cover Lewisham Council stories in the same way Darryl does. The ongoing redevelopment of Deptford and Lewisham, and the coming redevelopment of Catford, will affect Greenwich residents too – particularly if the Bakerloo line comes to our doorstep. Yet no outlet is really on top of quite what is going on there in the same way that 853 tracks developments in Greenwich and Woolwich. We’d like to fix that; ideally by the autumn. Funding it is going to be a challenge – we may need to launch a new crowdfunding appeal to do it – but if you’ve journalism experience, live in/near the borough of Lewisham and are happy with scouring council agendas, sitting in meetings and translating them all into compelling copy, get in touch: hello[at]

Secondly, and more ambitiously, we’d like to go into print. In Woolwich. Printed papers can reach the communities and people that social media doesn’t reach – or deters. And they give a place an identity. We think a printed paper focusing on Woolwich, Plumstead and Shooters Hill could be a winner. It wouldn’t be a weekly – that model is, at the moment, broken. But a paper every other month could reflect an area that’s changing rapidly, and restore some pride to the area. (Take a look at the Tottenham Community Press or Peckham Peculiar to see what we mean.) It’ll be a big job and it’s very, very early days – funding could either come from grants or crowdfunding or a mixture of both, and we’d need to find someone who can sell ads. If you have writing, design or sales skills, or can help us get this off the ground in some other way, get in touch: hello[at]

There are other things we can do – particularly in Charlton, to develop The Charlton Champion. In the next few months we will make some tweaks to the site. This should help us to make some more money in advertising revenue, which will then hopefully enable us to put more into the site.

We also had some discussions about how we obtain funding, the sort of stories we publish, whether or not we should re-enable comments on the sites, and how to let people know what they can do to support us.

We’re planning to hold more events in future months as we develop our plans for the future – keep an eye on this website and our social media for more information.

We’re having a launch event and we’d like you to join us

We’ll be at the White Swan in Charlton on Tuesday 4 June

When we opened Flyover Media last month we said we’d mark the occasion with a launch event, where we can discuss the state of SE London’s local media – particularly in Greenwich and Lewisham – and talk about what we can do to make things better.

Well, now it’s time. So we’re going to the pub. We’ll be launching Flyover Media upstairs at The White Swan, 22 The Village, SE7 8UD on Tuesday 4 June from 8pm (doors open 7pm).

We’ll be outlining some of our plans, and figuring out a path for the future, while we’ll also hopefully have some special guests from the journalism industry. 

There’ll also be a bar, so it’ll be good to share ideas over a drink. If you get along early and you’re peckish, there will be food available downstairs.

Whether you’re a reader of our sites or somebody that would like to get involved in preserving a local media in SE London, you’ll be very welcome.

If you can make it, please sign up via this Eventbrite link so we can get an idea of numbers. Thank you.

Introducing Flyover Media

We’re delighted to announce that Flyover Media CIC begins trading today. We publish two community websites in southeast London – and – 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.