A rescue package has been put together to bring back the St Helena Independent – just under a month after its “final” edition was published.
The revived Indy will appear – in print and on the internet – on Friday, 27 April 2012.
St Helena Government has said it wishes the paper well.
Long-standing columnists Vince Thompson and Julian Cairns-Wicks will be joined by a new writer – John Turner, who also runs an internet blog called Random Thoughts From Offshore.
St Helena Online will also supply material for the paper, in a goodwill partnership that may be unique. While the newspaper will continue its legendary campaigning style, this website will remain a largely impartial provider of news stories and lighter features.
Both operations are committed to helping to make St Helena a more open society.
Publisher Mike Olsson announced the paper’s closure on 30 April 2012, the day after The Sentinel newspaper was launched in Jamestown and allowed to compete for advertising – despite being funded by St Helena Government.
He says questions continue to be asked in London about the involvement of The Castle in media affairs on the island. “We have got Andrew Mitchell involved [Secretary of State for International Development] and we got William Hague involved [Foreign Secretary] and that will not stop.”
Ian Jones, the public affairs expert brought to St Helena from Whitehall, has been given a briefing on the re-launch.
A statement from The Castle says:
The St Helena Government notes the stated intention of the proprietor of Saint Helena Media Productions to re-publish its Independent newspaper, and wishes it well. As we made clear at the time, the St Helena Government had no desire to see the newspaper close and we will watch with interest as the Independent re-enters the market.
Mike says fresh editorial input is vital: “We had to introduce something new into the mix.
“I want to run things in the newspaper so that in the future you can go back 20 years and say, ‘That’s what happened that week.’ We can have features, but we have to pack it with news.”
Mike, who also runs Saint FM radio station, says the relaunch has come about as a result of efforts by people on the island and in the UK – and elsewhere.
Financial backers have been found, though Mike is hoping not to need to draw on their funds. “We have all the facilities, we’ve negotiated a deal for printing, and we’re getting advertising. We have very good support, and I think we can be back as the national newspaper.”
Even before the final edition appeared, Mike and others were working behind the scenes to find a way to revive it, with a new editorial line-up. The paper’s relaunch was announced on Saint FM and the paper’s Facebook page – which is already attracting lots of comments.
Here are some of them:
Anthony Somers This is good news. The Independent needs to scrutinize and criticize where appropriate – it’s a sign of a healthy democracy.
Cindy Yon Good to hear. It is always great to have more than one newspaper. Freedom of speech and all that jazz.
Shannon Longdawg Andrews I knew they couldn’t keep it down… good on yer.
Lucinda Corney Great news, well done! Something to look forward to on Fridays again.
COMMENT (to St Helena Online):
The Independent is re-starting because that’s what the people want, which proves there is a value in people expressing their views. And a quick personal thank-you to everyone who supported the Facebook ‘Re-start the Independent’ campaign.
John Turner, St Helena
Random Thoughts From Offshore (blog)