The front page of the first edition. :: SUR
This year, and this month especially, SUR in English has been receiving birthday greetings. Now, 30 years after the first edition hit the streets SUR in English remains a vital ink between the English-speaking community in southern Spain and the area they have chosen to make their home.
When, at the end of 1983, the idea to publish a newspaper in English was mooted in SUR, nobody could have imagined that the project would be such a great success, developing into what it is today 30 years later.
Until then on the Costa del Sol there had been newspapers that only reached a minimal audience and soon disappeared. Some local papers had even published one or two pages in English which satisfied neither foreign nor Spanish readers.
The experience had no real precedent, therefore, except in Palma de Mallorca. What was known then was that there was a growing community of English speakers who needed a source of local information and, if the right product was provided, it would have a great future.
SUR in English has reached a print run of 65,000 - audited by OJD (Oficina de Justificación de la Difusión) - with an estimated readership of 250,000 people.
“We welcomed the idea with enthusiasm from the start, despite knowing that other experiences had failed. But we understood that it was worth trying, among other reasons because we saw that it was the right time after a meticulous study,” said Pedro Luis Gómez, currently the Director of Publications at SUR, who was responsible for editorial coordination and direction at the outset.
Free newspapers barely existed in Spain at the time. After several visits to freesheets in London SUR set about studying an alternative distribution system.
So what was the secret to the success? Liz Parry, who took over from Pedro Luis Gómez at the helm of the newsroom and joined the paper in 1987, said: “From the first edition a newspaper was made for English-speakers but from a Spanish point of view. What happens in the UK isn’t front page news for us, except in very specific cases. The news published in SUR in English interests readers either because they are in the news or because it affects them somehow, but it also situates them in the area where they live which is very important.”
Gerry Davies, who died some years ago, was behind the original project, along with his wife Joan Davies and Jeff Kelly, also now deceased. Gerry recalled on the paper’s tenth anniversary: “Few thought the project would work and today everyone is full of praise for the product.”
Director general of Prensa Malagueña José Luis Romero said this week: “SUR in English is something this company is proud of.” Manuel Castillo, editor of SUR and editor-in-chief of SUR in English added that the newspaper has “its own identity and great importance in Malaga and Andalucía in general and is the object of study in Journalism faculties and has even been at the centre of doctoral theses.”
This year SUR in English, a newspaper imitated across Europe for its participation in tourism fairs and winner of the Tourism Merit award given by the Spanish Government, is celebrating 30 years with a range of anniversary activities.