The UK’s northernmost community is set for a newspaper battle following plans for the launch of a paper to take on the established Shetland Times.
The backers of Shetland Weekly are hoping they can follow the example of independent weekly Orkney Today, which launched last September, going up against the 150-year-old Orcadian.
Its first six-month circulation figure suggested that, in the Scottish islands at least, people are prepared to buy two papers: it debuted at 5,722 and the Orcadian was up 0.8 per cent in the same period to 11,323.
Richard Whitaker is to edit Shetland Weekly, which has advertised for a chief reporter but has yet to reveal its launch date. It is expected to have an editorial staff of around five and advertising sales staff of three.
Whitaker worked for the Evening Courier in Halifax between 1981 and 1989, before joining the BBC, where he rose to managing editor of Radio Leeds. He also worked as senior producer on Radio Shetland between 1999 and 2001.
He said: “People seem to think it’s a quiet patch, but there’s a lot going on up here. There’s great community spirit, little crime and the standard of living is fantastic.”
The existing Shetland Times already sells more than 11,000 copies a week, to a population of 23,000 islanders.
But Whitaker believes that, like Orkney Today, his paper can show that people are willing to buy two local weeklies.
He said: “We are wanting to be a paper that’s very positive about what’s going on in Shetland and to be very close to the community.
“We want to involve them in a lot of the things we do and to make sure that we are not Lerwick [the capital] centric, but get out and about across the isles.”
The new title is backed by Malcolm Younger, a Shetland entrepreneur behind the monthly Shetland Post and recently-launched bimonthly, the Shetland Pictorial Post.
By Dominic Ponsford