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“Penguin News” Voice of the Falklands for 25 years.

Saturday, October 16th 2004 - 21:00 UTC
Full article

The first copies of Penguin News went on sale twenty five years ago this month.
Islander Graham Bound sensed a gap in the market and decided a new Falkland Islands newspaper was needed. Penguin News was created and has, save for a few rare silences, been with us ever since.
October 3, 1979 saw the publication of the first issue of this paper.

To date, seven different editors have been at the helm of the paper with numerous deputy editors, columnists and typists contributing over the years.

Graham ran the paper for over seven years and during that time covered many local events including what is certainly the biggest news story in the Islands to date: the Argentine invasion of 1982.

The last issue before the invading forces arrived features a hastily compiled itinerary of the events taking place at the time on South Georgia - what we now know to have been a prelude to the invasion of the Falklands themselves. While Graham reports that, "Falklanders grow impatient at lack of British action," there is no mention in the article that invasion was imminent.

The paper was not produced throughout the conflict but returned after liberation by British forces with the famous "Victory" front cover issue designed by Joe King.

There is a real sense of optimism in the issues published immediately after the conflict about the future of the Islands as Graham's editorial of July 16 1982 demonstrates, "There is a dominant feeling around the Falklands these days that we must make sure that this is a turning point in our history. The Penguin News supports that belief."

This growing optimism looks justified when, in December 1982, the Penguin News' banner headline triumphantly reads, "£31 million in aid over 6 years! New industry, roads and jetty."

Similarly, the paper reports in July of 1983, "The news that a new airport capable of taking wide bodied aircraft is to be built on the March Ridge west of Fitzroy along with a linking road to Stanley, is the best news that Islanders have heard for many a day. This is the first really permanent structure to be built and underlines the British Government's commitment to hold on to these Islands."

I doubt Graham envisaged that the road mentioned would still not be finished a full 21 years later!

In 1986, Graham handed over the reins to Belinda Caminada who, according to the front page of her first issue was, "...a Londoner who grew a little tired of the hustle and bustle of the big smoke."

Belinda's arrival was essential in keeping the paper alive and she reported that most important development in our economic growth, the setting up of the Falklands fisheries zone and the allocation of the first licences for vessels operating in it. Her editorial of December 19, 1986 wishes all readers a, "Merry Christmas" and says, "...we are on the threshold of a new and valuable enterprise. What a Christmas present!"

Miss Caminada was the first editor to introduce "The voice of the Falklands" banner under the Penguin News masthead which remained in use until mid 1995.

After a year and four months in the challenging role of Penguin News editor, Miss Caminada returned to the UK and now works for the BBC World Service.

The next stage of the paper's life was truly revolutionary. Restricted by lack of funds and time, Graham Bound and Belinda Caminada's efforts in producing the paper had been remarkable. However, armed with funding from the ill fated Seamount Company, the new editor, Rory Macleod gave the paper a more professional look as he was able to get Penguin News printed for the very first time. The basic layout of Rory's first edition in 1988 remains the basis of the current set up still used today. Mr MacLeod edited the paper for just under a year and his departure was a result of the problems of Penguin News' parent company, Seamount Ltd.

There followed another break in publication of about eight months before another incarnation, complete with new penguin logo in the banner, appeared.

The Falkland Islands Government bought the paper when Seamount Ltd was wound up and installed an editorial board and new editor, Mr Jim Stevens. Since the first issue of this new series on November 3, 1989, Penguin News has been in production constantly.

Mr Stevens doubled production of the paper, taking it from a fortnightly to a weekly publication.

By now, the Penguin News was independent and regulated by the Media Trust and in 1994 former Superintendent of Education and Headmaster of Darwin School John Fowler became the fifth editor of the paper. Mr Fowler implemented several changes during his two and a half year period in charge. Most significantly, he reintroduced the editorial comment piece to the paper.

Mr Fowler's deputy editor, Lisa Riddell took over in 1996 and also made a number of improvements. Lisa expanded the paper from 12 to 20 pages and began reporting stories from South America with MercoPress. Lisa's time as editor coincided with the controversial Anglo/Argentine Joint Statement in July 1999 which ended the ban on Argentine citizens entering the Islands.

Today the Penguin News is an entirely independent publication, still regulated by the Media Trust, but it now receives no funding from government. Current editor Jenny Cockwell took over in 2003 after being deputy for some three years.

Diversity and versatility have to be the watch words of any Penguin News reporter as the paper has to cover everything from shipping movements and farming issues to Royal visits and high level international diplomacy; but it is precisely this varied mix that makes Penguin News a great place to work, and hopefully a worthwhile read.

By Rob Burnett ? Penguin News

Categories: Falkland Islands.

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