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The London Weekly: some unanswered questions

Could The London Weekly be the new ‘Cake,’ I wondered this morning, after reading James Ball’s latest blog post and a few tweets among my contacts.

One of the commenters on the Guardian’s story about the new freesheet launching in London already suggested that Brass Eye’s Chris Morris could be among the potential hoaxers. Had I, like many other media journalists, really swallowed a fake story about a fake newspaper? Ball challenged media reports on London’s latest freesheet, supposedly set to launch this coming Friday, raising valid concerns about its address information and lack of presence on Companies House.

According to its site, The London Weekly is funded by five private equity investors as part of the Global Publishing Group (GPG) and the Guardian reported that a “media pack circulating before Christmas claimed the backers had raised about £10.5m to launch the London Weekly…”

I was sceptical about this new company from the beginning, but in December I spoke to its listed managing editor, Roisin Robertson, on the phone, via contact details I found on various environmental websites (she is linked to Greenpeace and the Green Party online). She assured me she was its managing editor and couldn’t tell me much more before launch. According to an online biography, she was formerly chief reporter of the Chislehurst Times and a Parliamentary Green Party candidate in 2008. After speaking to Robertson, I went ahead and published a blog post, questioning the quality of the new site.

Then on 22 January Robertson left a comment on our blog saying she was no longer involved. I called her and she told me she didn’t wish to go into exactly why, but for personal reasons she was stepping down. As I previously reported (along with new details of its alleged expansion plans), this was the London Weekly’s statement: “We had a temporary acting editor for the launch of the website and our new editor is Alan Mills.”

Today, following James Ball’s post and after reading the Guardian commenters’ contributions to the whole thing, I did some more digging, which has left me only more confused. Whether or not the new paper exists, they’ve got a very bizarre PR strategy indeed.

Here’s what I’ve got:

  • The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is now investigating, but knew nothing of it straight off.
  • The London Weekly is not registered with the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).
  • Samsung and Packard Bell press offices confirmed they had donated prizes for its promotions, but didn’t have many more details to share.

The company:

  • A London Weekly Ltd incorporated in December 2009 is listed on Companies House and registered to one Oleg Kozerod, who I have not yet been able to locate contact details for online, or via the site that claims the same company number (07107785). But this seems to be separate to the TheLondonWeekly.co.uk.
  • A Global Publishing Ltd is listed on Companies House, incorporated in March 2009 with this address: 238 Abbeyfield Road,  Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S4 7AZ. No accounts have yet been filed.
  • BUT: Global Publishing Group and The London Weekly, as described in its media pack and on the website, do not claim to be ‘limited’ on the LondonWeekly.co.uk website. According to Companies House, they do not have to register as such, unless they call themselves Ltd. So we don’t necessarily have any official information on them. I was given this address by one of TLW’s promotion partners: c/o Unit 107, 203 Mare Studios, London, E8 3QE.
  • As James Ball noted, “[LTW is] certainly not based at the address given on the website’s Whois Record. That gives a registered address of 2 Old Brompton Rd. Google Street View shows this is a FedEx PO Box site.”

The people:

  • When I ring the number given on TheLondonWeekly.co.uk I am asked my name before I am put through to anyone. The last time I did this, they told me no-one was available to talk to me (despite noise in the background). Earlier in the day I was told Paul Morris, the marketing manager with whom I had email contact last week, was in a meeting. Morris had previously told me it was against company policy to give interviews over the phone in case they were misquoted.
  • Angus Auden, listed as the head of display, returned my call today. He said his main contact is with its editor Alan Mills (who has not returned my email) and he could not tell me about the business. Despite the long list of journalists, Auden said he has been responsible for uploading material online as a “key contributor”. “I don’t know an awful lot about the background to it,” he told me. He seemed surprised when I suggested the whole thing was a wind-up. “Well, if it is I’ve been wasting my time, but I can assure you it’s not” he said. He said it would launch this Friday, as scheduled. “There are a lot of people in offices all over the place,” he said.
  • The Auden-Robertson-Hamilton Invincible connection: Angus Auden, Roisin Robertson and Paul Hamilton (a new name given to me by one of the promotion partners) all are apparently involved in an online radio station, Invincible. Auden and ‘Lady Roisin’ are friends on Facebook.
  • I called Paul Hamilton. He, like Auden, claimed to know little about the company’s background and said he was not involved full-time. He also denied it being a hoax and said he expected it to launch soon.

So there you go. In Jarvian process journalism style, I will have set up a Help Me Investigate group for sceptical people to share any findings. With a list of over 50 staff, we must be able to track down some more information…

As a postscript, this is what happens when you search for the name of Global Publishing Group’s editor-in-chief:

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  • joe

    I’d think that http://www.thelondonweekly.net is nothing to do with it. Very unlikely that the same person would use two different registrars for their urls.

  • joe

    seems to be some evidence it is associated with the Invincible Group, whatever that is http://invinciblegroup.com

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  • Bob

    Seems odd but the flurry of not-complimentary press has probably made them batten down the hatches. I was once involved in something similar and we had a tough time getting pre launch publicity. Perhaps if we had exaggerated investment slightly, we would have had less of a problem? Also you wouldn’t expect a company that hasn’t really started reding to have accounts at CH yet.

  • http://www.journalism.co.uk Patrick Smith

    Something else to add to the mix: as I wrote here – http://paidcontent.co.uk/article/419-londons-new-freesheet-has-10.5-million-investment-but-is-it-enough/ – even if the TLW backers had raised £10.5m as they claim, that’s chicken feed compared to what you would actually need to set up and maintain and serious newspaper in one of the world’s biggest cities. Just look at the losses Associated and News Int incurred from propping up the never-profitable londpaper and London Lite.

    It’s going to be hard enough for the Evening Standard to maintain itself as a free product – and that’s with hundreds of staff, proper journalists, experienced sales staff, established commercial relationships, unmatched heritage and FAR more than £10.5m to invest.

    Something just doesn’t add up here.

  • http://www.jamesrb.co.uk James

    Bob – you’re right that a new company wouldn’t have accounts at Companies House, but its articles of association etc WOULD be published if it existed.

    Companies created as little as a few weeks ago already have their documents on the site. It’s a legal requirement when establishing a ltd company.

  • joe

    I’m not sure who should do this, but it would be very interesting to ring up as a potential advertiser and see what kind of information they’re giving out.

  • http://www.martinstabe.com/blog Martin

    … and surely anyone who had really pooled £10.5m from several investors would probably want some sort of formal legal structure for that organisation?

  • joe

    And another thing. Check out Jordan Kensington’s wikipedia page. http://bit.ly/ES2gR

    Two things:

    1. The Mother Teresa link

    2. He has a school in Cameroon and St Lucia. St Lucia?? That is a long way from Cameroon.

    The problem with the hoax idea is that this is a lot of complexity (lots of websites, wikipedia pages etc etc) to go to isn’t it?

  • joe

    Mind you, he does at least appear to exist. I was starting to think there was no evidence that this was a real person: http://bit.ly/cKpC3v

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  • Moffatt

    Many wasted calls to them re messing people around over last 3 months. They all say “I’m just a receptionist, I can’t put you through.” This time I said I was going to the police if they didn’t give me a name. The receptionist then said the director is Steven Campbell. Write to him at the address in Hackney. Receptionist’s name, Sarah Mills. Might be a great spoof but they are costing people time and money. Joke wearing thin.

  • Bob

    James – the company could easily be registered under some other name. Or perhaps not at all if they haven’t started trading yet.

    I think my point is that this is clearly not a spoof (what would be the point? what is the ultimate joke? spoofs are much clearer cut and shorter-lived than this. If you wanted to spoof, what you’d do is print an ACTUAL newspaper – just one print run). It may well be a mismanaged, shoddily set up corporate entity which has exaggerated its own support and will soon collapse. We don’t quite know that yet though.

  • http://twopointoh.co.uk Paul Lomax

    Joe: He might exist but you still might be on to something with Jordan Kensington.

    3. His mother was called Agnes.

  • Lyn

    Got to be a hoax. It’s just too ridiculous (look at the random awards categories … ‘Car of the Year’???) … in a paper for Londoners???: http://www.thelondonweekly.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=16&Itemid=52
    Also note that the Wiki profile of Jordan Kensington includes his parents, Agnes and Emmanuel. Both names appear, alongside that of Mother Theresa, on the list of staff no-one has heard of (http://www.thelondonweekly.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=73&Itemid=110).
    Plus all the typos, er, unusual spellings, in staff names ‘Libberman’, Mellissa’, ‘Donnovan’ – surely they can’t all be correct.
    Has anyone asked Gemma Cairney for her opinion, given she’s meant to be a columnist? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemma_Cairney
    If it is a hoax, we’re all getting sucked in as we’re wasting far too much time thinking about this.

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  • jj

    Another odd note: the address for http://www.thelondonweekly.net/ is listed as 145 – 157 St John St, but if Google Maps is accurate, the postcode is several blocks away at Hull St.

  • Bob-1

    Domen thelondonweekly.net was register in october 2008

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