2019 was great, next year will be even better!

Like any small, ‘owner-driver’ business, the success or fall of that enterprise is largely dependent on the team of people you have around you. Publishing a newspaper such as The Moorlander is no different in theory, although in practice our business model is far from being a ‘one size fits all’ and would probably not suit 99% of small businesses.

We rely on a small but willing band of contributors, volunteers and part-time staff who have all worked tirelessly over the last three and a half years to make The Moorlander the success it is today. They are a passionate, dedicated and enthusiastic bunch who take great personal pride in their fortnightly association with the paper… and it shows! Many have been involved since founder and now-retired editor Stuart Clarke first launched the paper in June 2016.

Despite Stuart’s lifelong and noble ambition to launch The Moorlander in financially testing times, he quickly discovered that publishing does not
provide the route to instant wealth; indeed the reality is quite the opposite and in December 2017, after 42 issues, Stuart accepted that the newspaper required fresh investment.

Recognising the potential and the impressive legacy Stuart had created, I’m delighted that my wife Susan and I were in the right place at the right time.

Unbelievably, it’s almost two years since we acquired The Moorlander and restructured the business, during which time many changes to both the newspaper itself and the ‘behind the scenes‘ activity has taken it to the next level.

But it’s not about the achievements or aspirations of any one individual – past, present or future – as I mentioned earlier, the success or fall of an enterprise is reliant on the team of people you have around you, which is where The Moorlander scores above all else.

And so, to the TEAM.

Editor Laura White and Deputy Editor Ben Fox

I have always described Laura White as ‘the glue who holds the newspaper together’. Before her recent elevation to the role of editor following Stuart’s retirement, as editorial PA Laura was instrumental in collating, proof reading and editing the bulk of the newspaper’s content while Stuart would target the issues of the day supported by his stunning photography and oversee the final layout.

The style of the newspaper will undoubtedly redevelop over time under Laura’s influence and as readers will know from her regular column, Laura is a keen advocate of ‘green issues’, conservation and protection of rural life in general. I believe her opinions and beliefs resonate well with the majority of our readers and is what made her the exceptional choice to assume the role of editor.

Our deputy editor Ben Fox has been with the paper since the fifth issue and has contributed to many a campaign or breaking news story with the panache and maturity of a seasoned professional.

His dual role as sports editor is a natural choice thanks to his wide and thorough knowledge of all aspects of local sport. His insightful interviews with prominent figures for our TM2 feature have been recognised nationally while he combines his role at The Moorlander with a career in the political arena in which he has a more than passionate interest. I predict that one day he will be the second Benjamin to lead the country.

Although they have now departed for pastures new, we cannot ignore the valuable contribution made during the year by reporters Ross Bryant and
Rebecca Smith. We wish them well in their respective new careers.

Our team of regular contributors are also an essential ingredient in The Moorlander’s continued success, each providing expert opinion in their own field. To those unsung heroes we are extremely grateful; they provide the backbone of our content.

Studio Manager Ross Tibbles

Many readers comment on how bright, clean and fresh our pages are compared to other titles. This is down to the quality of newsprint we use, the quality of the images we publish, plus the quality and personal service we receive from our printers Mortons. Last, but not least, the quality of the layout and design which is all down to the skills and dedication of just one man, our studio manager Ross Tibbles. Ross has been with The Moorlander since day one and has been responsible for ALL 93 issues to date… and the website content too.

In the early days he was learning ‘on the job’, today he can produce the whole paper in his sleep… and often does, working into the small hours to meet our tight deadlines. He produces the entire paper, including many of the advertisements, in just four and a half days. Recently he has been given more of a free hand to express himself and has come into his own. The results for all to see are in your hands right now.

One of the biggest challenges in producing a newspaper like The Moorlander with such as small team is getting it right, which we do 99.9% of the time.

It’s amazing that when an alleged spelling mistake does slip by unnoticed, how many of our readers inform us. We had one such occasion recently over the word ‘mediaeval’… yes, that is the correct and traditional spelling in the UK, but with Word documents influenced by Americanised spell
checkers and unpredictable, predictive text at everyone’s beck and call, and the fact that now the apostrophe has been declared redundant, I fear for the future of the English language.

This is where our proof-readers Kym Tibbles (who has also been with the paper since the beginning) and more recently, Peter Embling are indispensable. As guardians of the English language, at The Moorlander office anyway, their word is final! They are founder members of the unsung heroes brigade.

Availability of the newspaper is now Devon-wide and it can be found in all major supermarkets, petrol forecourts, and independent newsagents throughout Dartmoor and beyond; an increase of some 300% on availability back in January 2018. As a result The Moorlander has consistently bucked the trend in sales too. While those around us have steadily increased their cover price over the last two years, we have steadfastly maintained a 50p price point and have been rewarded by a loyal and steadily-growing readership.

We are regularly told by readers that The Moorlander is the only paper they now entertain. Sales of national newspapers and certain regional titles have suffered a decline in recent years, many citing the internet with its wall-to-wall 24/7/365 news channels but we don’t recognise that here at The Moorlander. One particular issue in late November this year saw us publish a 64 page edition for only the second time in the newspaper’s history, which also coincided with a record advertising yield too. We must be doing something right!

Pagination has increased from the early days thanks to a steady increase in advertising revenue over the last two years, an unenviable task spearheaded by the ever-reliable Gill Sergeant without whose efforts during that time this newspaper would never have made it even this far. Gill has been joined recently by the effervescent Samantha Way whose contributions have been an instant success – the term ‘hit the ground running’ seems wholly inadequate.

So now you’ve had a brief ‘warts and all’ look behind the scenes at The Moorlander, next time you see a misspelled word or a misplaced semi colon, perhaps you’ll understand and give us the benefit, we don’t do it deliberatly (sic)!

On behalf of all the TEAM here at The Moorlander, may we wish you a happy and prosperous new year and thank you for YOUR support during the last year or so too.

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Author: Eric Partridge

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