The people of Leek have never had it so good. This week the Staffordshire town is launch central as a new weekly newspaper and a new lifestyle magazine hit the news-stands for the first time.
Its newly media-rich population will have the added choice of Your Leek Paper and Local Life in the Moorlands to keep them up to speed on the goings-on of the 19,000 or so inhabitants – in addition to existing titles the Leek Post & Times, the Moorlands Trader and listings magazine Eyes On.
As they luxuriate in the new variety, most will be unaware that the two new projects have been put together by former editors of the Post & Times, the town’s longest-established news outlet. In the case of Your Leek Paper, its entire senior team is made up of former Post & Times employees, who left after the former family-owned title was sold to Northcliffe Newspapers last year.
Not that the readers will care about such details, which means that for the journalists at least, the playing field is level. The two newspapers’ editorial teams will relish the prospect of taking each other on, headline for headline, story for story, picture for picture.
Commercially, the pitch may have a rather steeper slope. The new team knows they will have their work cut out to compete with a title backed by an organisation that prints some nine million copies of more than 100 newspapers across the country every week. They know that Northcliffe won’t be taking the new competition lying down.
But they can look elsewhere for encouragement. In Yorkshire, to take one example, the year-old Dewsbury Press continues to do battle with the mighty Johnston Press’s Dewsbury Reporter (where its boss, Danny Lockwood, also used to be editor). A word with Lockwood, if they haven’t had one already, would no doubt be very illuminating for the start-up team.
He might well remind them of the adage that “the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong”. (Even if the scattered remains of other independent launches tend to support Damon Runyon’s sly postscript, “But that’s the way to bet”.)
Instead, they’ll look at this week’s opening shock at Wimbledon as a portent. The biggest upset in the tournament’s history saw the men’s No1 seed defeated by a rank outsider in his first Grand Slam match. Long shots do come in.