South London Press editor Hannah Walker steps down after 17 years but says local news has a 'strong future'

South London Press editor Hannah Walker has stepped down after nearly 18 years heading up the paper and its sister title the Greenwich Mercury, saying it had been an “honour” and a “privilege”.

Walker’s departure today follows the sale of the weekly Mercury and bi-weekly Press to London-based distribution firm Street Runners this summer.

It came after owners Capital Media Newspapers – founded by Walker and Philip Evans in January 2016 when they acquired the titles from Tindle Newspapers – went into administration.

Speaking to Press Gazette, Walker she said she felt it was the “right time” for her go, adding: “I think this is my natural break having sold the company. It’s definitely the point where I need to move on.”

Walker began her 26-year journalism career as a trainee reporter on the Birmingham Post & Mail and was later deputy editor of the Rugby Observer and editor of the Northampton Mercury.

She joined the South London Press and Mercury in 2000 as editor, later also taking on the role of managing editor, and said she is now considering a move into communications and media.

She told Press Gazette: “I have never thought of it as anything other than an honour and a privilege –and I have felt very lucky. I have met wonderful people and I have had fantastic experiences.

“I still consider it to be fun, but I’m very serious about it as well. I don’t take anything for granted and I think it’s a huge responsibility this job we have of communicating.”

Walker said the papers had “covered every big story that has gone on” in south London under her editorship, including speaking with local relatives of 9/11 victims and reporting on the killing of Damilola Taylor.

The titles have also run a number of successful local campaigns alongside MPs and community leaders, including stopping the closure of Lewisham Hospital, Maudsley mental health unit and Battersea children’s zoo.

Said Walker: “We have campaigned for shops, schools, Post Offices and police stations and through all of that, working with our MPs and community leaders, we have been a success.

“This business has been a success at making change, but what we haven’t done is probably changed enough ourselves.”

Last week a London Assembly report, to which Walker contributed, spoke of the decline of local news provision in the capital.

Asked what she thought of the changes to the local news industry during her lengthy editorship, Walker said: “I think none of us could have ever known that this was the position we would be in, but change has affected many industries.

“We just have to be prepared to constantly be as fresh as we can, keep up-to-date, but the key principles of informing people and being accurate, trust-worthy, honourable, diligent – all of that still applies, it’s just the way people are accessing their news which is completely different.

“The essentials of telling the truth and being accurate, that has to remain. You have to get it right if you are a professional journalist. We need to provide a service that people can trust and that is reliable. I think change is a good thing. I think we need to be positive about it.”

But, the mother-of-two said: “We have not been very good, especially in the regional and local press, at reacting quickly to technological change and the changes that are going on out there and how people are accessing news, but I think everybody has got the message now.

“I think there is a strong future for local news, just a different one and we have to recognise that and be brave enough to take it on head-on and listen to people and watch how they are getting their news.

“I watched my kids to see how they are getting their news. They want news, they are hungry for it, they just access it in a different way.”

The South London Press is a bi-weekly newspaper.

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