The Voice (newspaper)
The Voice, founded in 1982, is the only British national black weekly newspaper currently operated in the United Kingdom. It is owned by The Gleaner Company Limited and publisher, GV Media Group Limited, and is aimed at the British African-Caribbean community. The paper is based in the London Docklands and is published every Thursday.
The Voice was founded in 1982 by Val McCalla, who, while working on a London local paper called the East End News in 1981, led a group of businessmen and journalists in a new and uncertain endeavour – the creation of a weekly newspaper to cater for the interests of British-born black people. Until then the black press in Britain had always addressed a generation of immigrants, relaying news from their countries of origin in the Caribbean and Africa. Publications were named accordingly, with titles such as the West Indian Gazette, West Indian World, The Caribbean Times and West Africa. According to Beulah Ainley, who worked with McCalla on the East End News, "nobody thought the Voice would work", however, as The Independent has noted: "The previous summer, Brixton had rioted, and black enterprises of all kinds were now being encouraged in the hope of preventing a repetition. London's councils, in particular, were keen to advertise for black staff, and even keener to do so in a black newspaper. McCalla also had a business partner, Alex Pascall, with BBC connections; soon the Corporation was advertising too."
The Voice got off the ground with a £62,000 loan from Barclays Bank. At a time when black businesses found it particularly hard to get backing from banks, The Voice was helped by two factors.
One was Barclays' desire to show support for black causes, to counteract the adverse publicity attracted by their investments in South Africa. The other was the existence of the Loan Guarantee Scheme, set up by the Conservative government as part of Margaret Thatcher's policy of aiding and encouraging the growth of small businesses in Britain. Under the Loan Guarantee Scheme the Government secured 80% of the loan, thereby reducing the risk taken by the bank. As it turned out the loan was fully paid off within five years.
The first issue of The Voice was printed to coincide with the Notting Hill Carnival in August 1982. Its cover price was 54 pence. Initially it was only sold in London.
The Voice′s first office was in Mare Street, Hackney, east London. The first editor, Flip Fraser, led a team of young journalists who set about addressing the issues that mattered to Britain's Black community. They laid the foundation for the future success of the paper, combining human-interest stories and coverage of sports, fashion and entertainment with hard news and investigative reporting.
Within two decades it had become "Britain's most successful black newspaper". and had fought off a challenge from the New Nation, an upbeat, aspirational rival (funded by Rupert Murdoch's son-in-law) that accused The Voice of being "just a doom-and-gloom sheet".
The Voice has been involved with a number of controversies in the past. In 1995, its "inflammatory reporting" about police behaviour was alleged by other media to have "fuelled discontent" among the black community that resulted in rioting that year. In 2000 Val McCalla led an investigation into alleged financial irregularities after £400,000 of the paper's money apparently could not be accounted for. In 2002 there were calls to boycott The Voice after remarks in a BBC interview by the then editor, Mike Best, about "stop-and-search" policing.
The Voice headquarters are at: 1st Floor East, Moorfoot House, 221 Marsh Wall, London E14 9FJ.
Type and circulation
The Voice is produced in tabloid format and is a weekly newspaper, currently published on a Thursday, priced at 90p. There is also an online version.
The Voice newspaper is available nationwide through 5,000 retailers. It is reported that its circulation peaked at 57,000 in the early to mid-1990s and that the newspaper later abandoned ABC circulation certification.
The newspaper has different sections:
- News – includes: National, World, Business, Technology, Science, Health, Education matters.
- Life & Style – includes: entertainment features; People and Place; Arts, Books, Music and Theatre Reviews; Jasmines Juice, Stepping Out and Competitions.
- Young Voices – includes: Exclusive interviews with artistes making a huge impact on the UK youth scene. Looks at our favourite celebs, features a student of the week, street fashion, and poster battles. It also features advice from Agony Uncle Dear Kat. It is an award-winning publication.
- Soul Stirrings. All topics that fall under faith are discussed in a frank and open manner each week in this section. It also attracts regular contributions.
- Around Black Britain. This section allows the UK community to tell their stories. This section includes a West Midlands Focus.
- Sports. Another award-winning section of the newspaper, focusing on all sports matters.
Monthly features covered in the newspaper include:
- Community Conversations. This is an in-depth focus on one community each month in the United Kingdom.
- Family Matters. Each month The Voice looks at an issue surrounding family, parenting, care, fostering and adoption, healthy lifestyle and fitness, in a pull-out guide containing expert advice, information and contact points.
- Health Matters. Each month The Voice considers an issue surrounding mental and physical well-being. It is another pull-out guide that is filled with expert advice, useful information and contact points.
The current editor is George Ruddock. Other employees include Rodney Hinds – Sports & Features Editor; Davina Hamilton – Entertainment Editor; and Dionne Grant – Online Editor.
Well over a hundred people have been on The Voice′s payroll over the years. Many of today's most popular black television, radio and print journalists have in the past have been associated with the newspaper and its website.
Its roll of honour includes former Commission for Racial Equality chair Trevor Phillips, former BBC and currently Al Jazeera newsman Rageh Omaar, ITV's Martin Bashir, authors Diran Adebayo, Leone Ross, film maker and novelist Kolton Lee and Vanessa Walters, broadcasters MTV Jasmine Dotiwala, Henry Bonsu, Dotun Adebayo, Onyekachi Wambu and publisher Steve Pope, among others.
Recognition and awards
The Voice has received many awards which include:
- Young Voices – two "Best Magazine" awards from the Urban Music Awards 2010 and 2009.
- BBI Media and Entertainment Award 2008.
- Voice of Sports – Performance Award 2003 from Western Union
- BEEAM Awards for Organisation Achievements 2003
- Black Plus Awards 2002
- Britain’s Ethnic Minority Federation at the Bank of England, Partnership Awards 1999.
- NLBA Enterprise Excellence Awards 1996
- BGA Gospel Awards – Best Media 1980s.
- "Newspapers", Black In Britain.
- Andy Beckett, "The Voice in the Wilderness", The Independent, 11 February 1996.
- Angelique Chrisafis, "McCalla, publisher who gave black people a voice, dies", The Guardian, 24 August 2002.
- Decca Aitkenhead, "Black and successful? Here's the good news", The Independent, 13 October 1996.
- Paul Lashmar, "Whispers of strife at The Voice", The Independent, 22 August 2000.
- David Rowan, "Best is out of tune, say black community's 'real' voices", The Observer, 10 March 2002.
- Chris Tryhorn, "Voice sold off in £4m deal", MediaGuardian, The Guardian, 20 May 2004.
- Chris Tryhorn, "Gleaner group acquires the Voice", The Guardian, 21 May 2004.
- The Voice website.
- Steven Pope, "From a shout to a whisper: The death of Val McCalla, founder of the Voice, has turned the spotlight on the black press in Britain", The Guardian, 2 September 2002.
- "Contact us", The Voice online.
- Ian Burrell, "Lester Holloway: 'Victim stories have had their day in black papers'", The Independent, 5 May 2008.
- Steve Pope, "Total blackout", Comment, The Guardian, 19 March 2004.
- "Author: Onyekachi Wambu", Random House Group.