North Edinburgh News is fighting hard to stay afloat, attendees at the community newspaper’s annual general meeting heard last week. Chairperson Martin Hinds said that every effort is being made to attract the funding needed to keep the paper alive. The mood at the meeting was considerably brighter than that at the NEN’s previous AGM – where the organisation was wound down and staff said their goodbyes.
A small but select audience (!) heard that NEN was forced to close when the city council ‘disinvested’ in community newspapers in March last year. Three members of staff were made redundant, and to meet the organisation’s obligations to make redundancy payments the board sold off the NEN’s Crewe Road North office. After redundancy payments were made and outstanding bills paid the Board used the residue of cash raised from the sale of the office to try to resurrect the NEN in a ‘slimmed-down’ form late last year.
The NEN is now run with costs cut to the bone – the organisation has a desk at Telford College on West Granton Road, with part-time freelance editorial support and no staff. Despite this, the NEN hit the streets again earlier this year and has continued to produce, albeit now on a bi-monthly basis to keep costs down. The NEN’s online presence has also been beefed-up and is attracting more and more visitors – last month the online NEN passed 50,000 visitors and now attracts an average of 300 readers daily.
So, while the NEN’s future is far from secure, there are reasons for optimism. Martin Hinds told the meeting: “We have held productive talks with local councillors and hope that with their support we can we can forge a plan for the NEN’s longer-term survival. The NEN continues to have strong support within the community, and we need to build on that support. The NEN Board is made up of local people who all give up their time as volunteers, and we have worked very hard to keep the NEN alive - we remain totally committed to ensuring that the NEN will remain at the heart of the community.”
Treasurer Eddie Thorn went on to give a breakdown of the NEN’s finances before a general discussion on how the NEN can raise income to meet the challenges ahead. However at thirty years and counting, financial challenges are nothing new to NEN. You can’t help but feel we’ve not reached the end of this particular story yet!