Sir Ray Tindle: Media Group Owner Who Rescued More Than 200 Local Newspapers

From an obit on by Martin Wainwright headlined “Sir Ray Tindle: Energetic and popular media group owner who rescued more than 200 local newspapers”:

Sir Ray Tindle, who has died aged 95, was the buoyantly enthusiastic rescuer of more than 200 local newspapers in the UK and a philanthropist of imagination and charm. He harnessed his lifelong energy to a model of ultra-local news, trim private ownership and an absolute ban on borrowing money – in the process defying Jeremiahs in the industry for more than 60 years.

He loved the job, from his first encounter with its novelty and bustle as a schoolboy evacuee to his death while still company president of his own Tindle Group, although with the executive succession passed to his son, Owen in 2017. Unusually for a press baron, as he may be literally but misleadingly described, he was much liked.

Tindle realised his principal ambition by saving so many sources of news but never gave up on another which he described only four years ago to the industry’s own newspaper, Press Gazette. “If I could have my way I’d have a new newspaper for every street,” he said. “That’s not impossible. If you give a page to every street and change the position of the page each week, you could have a front page for every street. I think we’re nearly there – we’ve come close.”

The model went back to his first publication, cranked out on a duplicator on a troopship taking the Devonshire Regiment to the far east in 1944. He learned how many people had stories to tell and how much they wanted reminders of their home county. Demobbed in 1947 with the rank of captain, he wrote 200 job applications before landing what he called a “dogsbody” job at the Croydon Times, and spent 13 years there learning the trade through and through.

He kept hold of his demob money for all that time, and in 1960 paid £250 to buy the Tooting and Balham Gazette, which had a venerable past but was on its knees. His formula raised sales from 700 to 3,500 in a year, then he swapped it for three stuttering titles in west London, which he also turned around.

His favourite of the long line of subsequent successes was the Tenby Observer in south west Wales, whose central role in the passing of the 1908 Local Authorities (Admission of Press to Meetings) Act he knew from school. Learning of its bankruptcy two days before closure, he rang the receiver, had an offer accepted, drove to Tenby and asked the staff if they would have another shot on his terms.

“A cat must not have kittens in Tenby unless it’s covered by the Observer,” he instructed. To his delight, their front page two days later included the headline “Two clothes brushes stolen from Tenby caravan.” Sales rose accordingly and the paper is now in its 170th year.

Such journalism seldom wins awards but Tindle believed absolutely in its importance to the democracy for which he had fought. His papers’ shared motto was Winston Churchill’s “We will never surrender”, which he had heard broadcast live, but he could as well have used Oliver Cromwell’s description of his preference for an ordinary soldier “that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows”. Detailed and reliable community news was the stuff of that.

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