Fire-hit Guardian refuses to stop press

A local newspaper that defied an arson attack to meet its weekly deadline is calling for witnesses and anyone with information on the fire to go to the police.

A fire ripped through the paid-for weekly Middleton and North Manchester Guardian causing extensive internal damage. Petrol was poured through the office’s letterbox and set alight, though no one was hurt in the blaze. No arrests have been made.

Despite the fire breaking out the night before its Tuesday morning deadline, the paper, part of the Manchester Evening News Weekly Newspaper Group, still came out on time, thanks to an emergency plan installed by parent company Guardian Media Group following the 11 September terrorist attacks on the US in 2001.

Editor Gerry Sammon said: ‘I was called to the scene and I could tell immediately that it was serious. But because the system’s in place we managed to get the paper out on time.

‘We’re still sifting through the bits and pieces to find things like contacts books, which have miraculously survived.”

He continued: ‘Whoever did this wanted to stop the Middleton Guardian being published. We haven’t missed an edition yet, and the coward who did this will be sadly disappointed that we are out this week as normal and on time. We won’t be intimidated.”

The paper was still being produced this week from a secret location ‘disaster recovery area’in Greater Manchester, where staff were able to access remotely-stored pages and files.

The paper’s team, which has been inundated with readers’ messages of support, will stay there for at least two months while renovations take place at the gutted Middleton office.

Though work has carried on as normal, Sammon has had to reassure a new journalist who starts on 7 July that her job is safe, and two work-experience placements from the local sixth form college have been cancelled.

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