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Our Newspapers

All the week’s news and views

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Never forget that if you don’t hit a newspaper reader between the eyes with your first sentence, there is no need of writing a second one.
Arthur Brisbane

Our two newspapers. Every week.

This page is in indexes: Island Activity, Island Detail

Go to: Brief history of newspapers on St HelenaOur current newspapersRegulationRead More

Please note: for brevity we have used the abbreviated titles for the newspapers discussed here. They should strictly be referred to as ‘The St Helena Independent’, etc.

Brief history of newspapers on St Helena

St Helena Herald, 17th February 1853 [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]
St Helena Herald, 17th February 1853

St Helena Guardian, 10th November 1904 [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]
St Helena Guardian, 10th November 1904
The News from September 1994 [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]
The News from September 1994

The St Helena Press was a private printing business set up by Saul Solomon in 1806, which produced a number of government-funded publications including The Government Gazette (from 1807) and The Monthly Register (from 1809).

What is thought to be St Helena’s earliest true newspaper, The Advocate (also known as the Weekly News), was first published on 8th May 1851. The proprietors of the paper intended it should “awaken and rouse [the people of St Helena] to a proper consideration of public affairs - to form a public opinion and to make their voice heard”. It also contained many letters to the Editor - still today a popular means of expression. But they were not very successful - The Advocate closed down in 1853, largely due to it being pushed out of business by a new Government-run publication The Chronicle, which started in 1852.

In 1853 another independent newspaper, The Herald, was printed by Thomas Dick of Market Street, Jamestown with the bold statement “To think as we choose, to write as we choose, to admit into the paper what we choose and to reject what we choose”, claiming “We will be responsible to nobody”. A photo of the front page can be seen (left). The first edition sold out but the paper only ran until 1860 when the owner replaced it with The Record, which also came to a sudden stop in 1861 with no explanation - just a front cover stating that the next paper would be The Guardian. Several other short-lived private newspapers were also launched about this time: The Advertiser (1865-1866); The Star (1866-1867); The Spectator (1866-1868); The Bug (1888); The Mosquito (1888); The Times (1889); and The Monthly Critic and Flashman (1895).

The Guardian (right) set an island record for a private newspaper: it ran for a total of 64 years, from 1861 to 1925, covering everything from the closure of the Liberated Africans depot to the making of Ascension Island a dependency of St Helena.

In September 1921 Canon Walcott took over the Diocesan Magazine (started in 1899), printing it himself. He later renamed it the St Helena Magazine to allow himself more freedom of speech, whilst including a column called Diocesan Notes. He continued publishing it until his death in 1951.

Throughout this period the government of St Helena continued to publish a newspaper. The Chronicle became The Wirebird, then The News Review and eventually in 1986 The News (right).

SHNMS logo [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]

With effect from October 1999 the Government of St Helena passed control of The News to a new body which it created - the St Helena News Media Service (SHNMS){7}.

Herald, 2001 [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]

The News published its last edition on 25th May 2001. Curiously, it did not mention its imminent demise! From 1st June 2001 The News was renamed The Herald. This was the island’s only newspaper until November 2005 when The Independent was launched. Since then we have (almost) always had two newspapers…

Our current newspapers

Paper

Launched

Published

Banner

Owner

The Sentinel

March 2012

Thursday

The Sentinel [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]

South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (S.A.M.S.)

The Independent

November 2005
Closed March 2012
Restarted April 2012

Friday

The Independent [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]

M Olsson

The Sentinel

The Sentinel [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]

Go to: ContentPublicationHistoryContactsFunding

Content

Sentinel front-page, 9 September 2016 [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]

The Sentinel follows the convention of most UK tabloid newspapers of having sports news at the back. There is no editorial as such but a ‘Comment’ is published every week by a member of the South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (S.A.M.S.) team. Most articles are also authored by members of the South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (S.A.M.S.) team, though some contributed articles are published. Other regular features include a photograph of each baby born in the week together with a brief description; letters to the editor and ‘Faith Matters’ (church notices). Features tend to focus on Saints, at work and at play, and St Helena history.

Publication

The Sentinel publishes on a Thursday - an unusual step as both the Independent and the Herald/News always published on a Friday.

Download the most recent Sentinel.{2}

History

The Government of St Helena issued the following announcement on 7th July 2011:

SHG is planning to set up a new, community owned company, to provide improved media services on St Helena. This not-for-profit company will provide three radio stations, all on the FM Band, and a newspaper. The first radio station will focus on popular and country music with news summaries; the second station will maintain the Radio St Helena brand; and the third station will be dedicated to the BBC World Service.

The new Company will be fully independent of Government and the current St Helena News Media Services organisation will be wound up.

The Sentinel was launched on 29th March 2012 by what was then known as ‘The St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation Ltd.’, later renamed as South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (S.A.M.S.). On the opening editorial its editor wrote: “My team and I aim to create a forum that allows and encourages fair and balanced debate of all sides of these issues. A properly informed community will be better placed to decide the course for St Helena to steer.

Contacts

Location map:
Location Map samsl [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]

To reach the South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (S.A.M.S.) team:

The Sentinel’s offices are in Castle Gardens, in the building called Garden Hall; the building in the northern corner of the gardens.

Funding

The Sentinel is funded by advertising revenue and copy sales, supplemented by an annual subsidy provided by the Government of St Helena.

The Independent

The Independent [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]

Go to: ContentPublicationHistoryContactsFunding

Content

Independent front-page, 8 September 2016 [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]

The Independent has a fully-pictorial front page, an editorial, articles usually authored by members of the Independent/Saint FM Community Radio team with some contributed articles, and letters to the editor.

Publication

The Independent publishes on a Friday.

Download the most recent St Helena Independent.

History

The Independent was launched by Saint FM on 11th November 2005, originally only published on the Internet. The first edition contained just 11 pages (three of which were adverts for Saint FM!) but it was widely distributed and even printed and distributed in offices across the island. It was also widely downloaded by Saints overseas.

Download the first St Helena Independent.

On 27th January 2006, just 12 weeks after its launch, the first printed edition of The Independent went on sale. It sold out - but then it did only print 100 copies, a test run! In future weeks the print run increased until it was regularly selling over 1,000 copies per week, significantly outselling The Herald.

In the following years The Independent continued to grow, usually exceeding 40 pages and filled with news and opinions, many of which were openly challenging of government policy and practice and as such would not have been given space in The Herald. The government was clearly unhappy with this but seemed unable to make The Herald more attractive, even though it was 10p cheaper.

The Government of St Helena issued the following announcement on 7th July 2011:

SHG is planning to set up a new, community owned company, to provide improved media services on St Helena. This not-for-profit company will provide three radio stations, all on the FM Band, and a newspaper. The first radio station will focus on popular and country music with news summaries; the second station will maintain the Radio St Helena brand; and the third station will be dedicated to the BBC World Service.

The new Company will be fully independent of Government and the current St Helena News Media Services organisation will be wound up.

At first it was thought this would have no impact on The Independent, but the government used its considerable influence to actively promote the new paper, which it also heavily subsidised. It also withdrew all its advertising from The Independent. The financial outlook for the St Helena Independent was bleak, and on 23rd March 2012 it was announced that it would close the following week.

Immediately many campaigns were started, including one on Facebook™: ‘Restart The Independent’. For four weeks The Independent was in constant discussions with advertisers, vendors and printers to see if a way could be found to bring the paper back without it running at a loss. They succeeded! The Independent recommenced publication on 27th April 2012.

The Independent also linked up with St Helena Online{3}, an online news blog{4} published by former BBC journalist Simon Pipe{3}, reproducing many of his stories about the South Atlantic Islands.

Contacts

Location map:
Location Map independent [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]

To reach The Independent:

The Independent’s offices are in the owner’s home, behind the Bridge Memorial Clock.

Funding

On 3rd March 2017 it was announced that the St Helena Independent would henceforth be funded by Lord Ashcroft, in a 3-year deal. Details of the agreement were not disclosed.

Regulation

Media on St Helena is regulated by the St Helena Media Commission, which is charged with overseeing Media Services delivered in or from St Helena in accordance with the regulatory objectives set out in the Media Standards Ordinance 2011. You can read their ‘Media Code of Practice 2014’.

Read More

Article: “Ready to erupt: Troubled times for St Helena

By Ian Burrell, published in the (UK) independent 7th April 2012{5}

The UK’s remotest dependency is poised to enter a brave new world of private enterprise. But the transition is proving painful

James Valley, from up country [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]

There has barely been such a hubbub on St Helena since Napoléon Bonaparte turned up on its volcanic shores four months after being defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. The tiny and remote south Atlantic outcrop, which is home to a population of just over 4,000 ‘Saints’ and is presently reachable by a 2,700Km boat journey from Cape Town, is bracing itself for a shockwave to its culture and traditions.

Supported financially by Britain since the East India Company first colonised it in 1658, St Helena is about to reject its dependency on hand-outs by introducing air travel to an island which was described [by the author Julia Blackburn] as being “further from anywhere than anywhere else in the world.

Work has begun on building an airport - the biggest infrastructure project the island has ever seen - which will open in 2015 with the potential for creating a tourism industry which might bring 30,000 visitors a year, if projections are correct. They will be tempted by dramatic walks in St Helena’s spectacular tropical interior, the chance to fish for tuna and blue marlin and to swim from the coast of an island that is 1,100Km from the nearest land (Ascension Island). Then there is Longwood House, a French government-owned property where Napoléon died after six years in exile. Visitors might like to savour the St Helena coffee, for which Bony developed a taste.

But as the authorities try to introduce private enterprise, St Helena’s last independent newspaper has been silenced.

The suspicion among islanders is that the government is quietening a critical voice to ensure that potential investors in the new economy can expect a favourable reception.

There also remain doubts that a community that has been in receipt of £30m-a-year from the British Government (St Helena is the most costly of Britain’s 14 overseas territories) will be able to survive through private enterprise.

Measuring 10 miles by six, St Helena is 1,800 miles from South America and 1,200 from Africa. The transport service is the pensionable Royal Mail Ship which docks once a month from South Africa.

The airport, which will allow flights to arrive from South Africa, has been given enthusiastic support by the billionaire Conservative donor Lord Ashcroft.

The Tory peer, who visited the island as a small child and recalls a family tale of how he fell in Napoléon’s fish pond, has flown over the island in a ‘one-man protest’, giving an interview from his private jet to local radio and bemoaning the fact that he was unable to land.

Labour shelved the airport plan when in power - but it was revived by the Coalition government after David Cameron entered Downing Street.

Simon Pipe{3}, a former BBC journalist who runs a website on St Helena called The Gates of Chaos{6}, said: “It’s a massive challenge to the culture. These are wonderful people but they don’t know how to run a business and take the initiative. Those who do take the initiative have left the island and moved to Swindon.” (A generation ago, almost 1,000 St Helena exiles settled in Swindon - or Swind Helena as they call it - following word-of-mouth about the town’s employment prospects.)

For private business to take off in St Helena, the island’s government needs many of those Saints to come home and bolster the service industries on which the new tourism sector will depend.

But as the diaspora of Saints look for latest news of these tumultuous times in the island’s history, the news is hardly reassuring. The territory’s only independent newspaper, The St Helena Independent, closed down last week in a fit of high dudgeon. “Independent closes down”, read its final front page. “Congratulations to St Helena Government! Every time private sector shows its ugly face we shoot it down.

Indy front page, 30 March 2012 [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]
Indy front page, 30th March 2012

It was hardly the message the island’s administrators wanted as they prepare to embrace capitalism. The government, which operates from a building known as The Castle in the island’s Georgian capital of Jamestown, has decided to sink about £250,000 of public funds into subsidising a new, rival media empire.

The state-funded St Helena Sentinel debuted on the news-stand last week with an altogether more positive message: “On the Starting Blocks”, and a picture of a young Saint preparing to run in a school sports day.

Some islanders accuse St Helena’s governors of wanting to oversee this period of change with a minimum of criticism.

Certainly that is the view of The St Helena Independent’s founder Mike Olsson, a Swedish immigrant who fell in love with the island and decided to stay. A pioneer, he first set up a radio station Saint FM. He began receiving so much news that he began printing The Independent six years ago. By the time of its last issue, the 90p paper was selling more than 1,000 copies a week and it is credited by supporters with having broken a culture of censorship on the island.

But Olsson was not everyone’s cup of St Helena coffee. The 49-year-old is something of a maverick who used a picture of a monkey at a typewriter to illustrate his editorials, which often irked St Helena’s leaders.

Olsson, who produces the paper with a staff of three, claimed that the government’s decision to launch the Sentinel contradicts its aims of encouraging private enterprise as the island prepares to welcome air travel. “What they’ve done is completely against their own policies,” he said. “The government media, with huge subsidies is allowed to compete for private sector advertising.” He has closed down his paper in protest at what he sees as unfair competition.

Vince Thompson, The Independent’s star columnist, said in a telephone interview that the government should be spending its money on more important services, such as hospitals and its under-performing schools.

My bone of contention is that education and public health have got to be much higher priorities than the government pandering to its pet media project,” said Thompson, who defended his paper’s sometimes spiky approach.

It’s an important job to question and raise alternatives, especially in a remote society like Saint Helena where the normal democratic institutions are not so well developed.

But over at the Sentinel, which sells for £1 and is loaded with adverts for local barbecues and fitness classes as well as offers for public sector jobs on St Helena and Ascension Island, Darrin Henry claimed his paper would not be subservient to the island government, in spite of its public funding.

The day a government official tells me we can’t print something, or there is any hint of censorship, I will leave,” he said. Henry, who is a native Saint and has a background as a professional photographer, has a young editorial team of five. “We are aiming to build something long-term which is a very credible news service for the island and our diaspora,” he said. Henry, the chief executive of the broadcasting corporation, will also run the publicly-backed FM radio station which will shortly replace the state-backed Radio St Helena medium wave service and will threaten the future of Olsson’s Saint FM.

Swind Helena is not sure what to make of it. Jonathan Clingham, a St Helena-born IT consultant now living in Wiltshire, said he reads The St Helena Independent online and that its closure had come at a critical time in the island’s history. “With the upcoming airport project a lot of people are interested in going back to the island. Without The Independent our main source of information is cut away.

Later this month, a digital television service will launch on St Helena, offering BBC World alongside sports and American entertainment channels. But few Saints can afford the island’s slow and expensive broadband connection.

Inside The Castle, the St Helena government is anxious to downplay the drama, insisting it had no intention to close down The Independent when councillors voted to set up the new media service. Neither do they wish to transform an island culture which is seen as St Helena’s biggest attraction to potential visitors. “What we want to do,” said a government spokesman, “is maintain the community spirit and ethos and traditions that are part of the island’s heritage.

More stories [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]

More stories on our page Read articles about St Helena.

closinghumourimage [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]

Laugh at funny newspaper humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:Our Newspapers]

News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.William Randolph Hearst


Footnotes:

{1} Later the St Helena Herald: it was renamed from 1st June 2001.

{2} Usually available online on the Monday following publication.

{3} sthelenaonline.org or sthelenaonline.wordpress.com.

{4} See more blogs.

{5} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged

{6} Now renamed St Helena Online{3}

{7} Set up by the Government of St Helena in October 1999 to own and manage its newspaper, the St Helena News{1}, and radio station, Radio St Helena. It set out to be “The prime presenter of news, current affairs and entertainment in St Helena, in a factual and unbiased manner, leading to a self-sustainable service which caters for the ongoing needs of all stakeholders.” It never achieved self-sustainability, always requiring a government subsidy of c.£100,000 per annum (2010 figures). Although officially an independent body, SHNMS continued to be funded by, and its Board appointed by the Government of St Helena.



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