Death of a free newspaper pioneer

Free newspaper pioneer Frank Branston has died after a brief illness.

Branston, 70, launched Bedfordshire on Sunday in 1977 with £9,000 capital and a £5,000 bank loan.

When he sold Local Sunday Newspapers Group in 2005 to Iliffe News and Media it had a group circulation of 350,000 a week with titles in Luton, Dunstable, Leighton Buzzard , North Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes. He took a step back from publishing in 2002 when he became the first directly elected mayor of Bedford, and he was in the middle of his second term as mayor when he died.

Branston began his career in journalism as an office boy on the Sunday Express. After a briefly working in PR, he joined the Fleet Street News Agency, before moving on to The People and then the Bedfordshire Times.

He launched Bedfordshire on Sunday in 1977 and the paper quickly gained a reputation for holding the council to account, with stories about botched vote counts and councillor freebies around Europe.

As mayor he continued to use his position to question and probe, and in May this year he used his personal blog to take his former newspaper to task over its sparse coverage of a suicide in Bedford.

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