The dream of launching a free newspaper in Torbay was first mooted almost a year ago, but that dream was to become a reality thanks to national newspaper and publishing company Archant and its executive chairman Simon Bax.
Chris Coward, the man leading the Torbay Weekly consortium and a former executive with Reach PLC, met Mr Bax after an ‘off-the-cuff conversation’ about the project.
Suddenly he, editor-elect Jim Parker and local businessman Chris Wills - also part of the team - were in Norwich at Archant’s HQ for meetings with Simon and other key players and heads of department. Within 24 hours the Archant board were giving the Torbay team their backing.
For Simon Bax, appointed Archant executive chairman only last October, the Torbay Weekly was an opportunity for him on several fronts, including showing his belief in the future of local, local journalism and giving a timely boost to Archant’s other titles in the South West and the Archant business overall in his relatively new role.
He says: “There was an off-the-cuff comment about Chris Coward trying to launch a new newspaper in Torbay. That triggered a couple of things for me.
“It is my belief that local journalism has a vibrant future if the people involved really care about the communities that they are writing about and are based in those communities.”
He added: “I was conscious that within Archant we had a fairly disparate geographical spread and perhaps had not paid as much attention as we should have to the titles that we have down in the South West.
“I thought this would be a great opportunity to see if the Torbay project was viable and was something that we could support.
“The other thing I was very aware of was that being new in the role it was the perfect opportunity for me to demonstrate to Archant the reason why I believe in the future of the printed product and the future of local journalism. I got involved because I could see all these elements coming together.
“It was not just a case of supporting what will hopefully be a successful venture in Torbay.
“It was also about the positive impact it could have on our other titles in the South West and a really positive reinforcement of my belief in the future of our business.”
Archant’s support has given a new meaning and impetus to the Torbay Weekly business, including help and support with the digital side of the operations. “One of the things that we have been able to offer to the Torbay project is to overlay our digital expertise and our digital products that can help advertisers with their other mix of needs,” says Simon.
The weekly is also ‘perfect timing’ on other fronts as far as Simon is concerned.
Archant’s new website concept - Peterborough Matters - focuses on truly local content being generated by local reporters and the local community. It is the same principles for the Torbay Weekly.
Simon Bax says: “It is great for us because we have two experiments launching at the same time - the digital only project in Peterborough and the more traditional print and digital in Torbay. We are echoing Torbay and what they are trying to do in Torbay.”