The editor of an independent newspaper has revealed his struggle to keep the title afloat just weeks after being “blacklisted” by its local council.
Neil Speight, who launched the Thurrock Independent 15 months ago, said today its “race may be done” and that its survival depends on readers.
He proposed in a recent Facebook post the idea of forming an editorial board for community members to direct where the newspaper goes next.
Speight received support from the News Media Association and rival publishers including Archant’s group editor for London after Thurrock Council’s chief executive told him on 3 August that the local authority would no longer respond to his press enquiries.
The council said it will not review its position until 3 February, after Speight was accused of “repeated breaches of appropriate working practices”.
These included public critique of media statements, emailing council officers instead of the communications team, and publishing internal council communications between managers and councillors.
Speight (pictured) previously said the council’s decision effectively amounts to “a ban on any response by the authority to investigative reporting by the newspaper”.
He revealed on the Independent’s official Facebook page how he had committed his family finances to get the title up and running.
“To be honest, at the moment I am frustrated,” he wrote.
“I started the paper to promote the good in Thurrock but force of circumstance means almost every week when we print I am finding I am fighting ‘city hall’ and negativity.
“I am fed up of being perceived as negative but how can I ignore the corruption, moral or criminal around us? If the Thurrock Independent doesn’t report it, who will?”
However Speight expressed his aim to keep fighting for the “fabulous community of hundreds, if not thousands of people who do so much good”.
He proposed forming an editorial board of volunteers for the community to “direct where we go with this paper” and asked for interested parties to get in touch.
He wrote: “I make no secret of the fact that financially I need some help, but more importantly I want the people of Thurrock to share in where we go from here.
“If we are doing a decent job, we can do better. If I am barking up the wrong tree, let’s call it a day.”
After receiving dozens of messages of support on social media, Speight told Press Gazette: “It’s not really about me, though I can’t help but be touched by many of the comments, but as we fight for the survival of local newspapers it shows their importance to a lot of people as a watchdog for the community.”
He added today that since the Facebook post was published on Tuesday last week, he has set up a donations button on the website which has seen several small payments from readers.
But, he said: “To be honest my race may be done unless I can find someone to support the title through another few months.
“We are doing okay now on week-to-week revenues and expect it to grow more as we come out of the summer but it’s the debt I had to take on to get to this point that may finish me off personally.
“Sometimes I let my head rule my heart and I really do believe in a properly functional local press and print.”
Thurrock Council has previously said it is unable to comment on individual cases.
Picture: Neil Speight