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Behind the scenes with Louise D'Costa and The Caterham and District Independent

When it comes to Local Newspapers, have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes? Once upon a time, several papers would grace our doorsteps, a link to local businesses and community news alike. Although many such publications have disappeared into local websites, one very special lady has taken on the mantle of a local publication, which is now celebrating it’s first year under new management despite a global pandemic slap bang in the middle!

The Caterham and District Independent is a local newspaper with a big difference. Bringing together print, online, radio and even a regular Podcast, this is the perfect combination of community news and support for local businesses, mixed with a big dollop of heart.

I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with Louise over the past few months, and my goodness, she’s a force to be reckoned with! So I thought I’d take you behind the scenes, and introduce you to Louise D’Costa, the lady behind the brand.

Our first meeting was for a series of headshots, after all, Editors need a great looking photograph for their Editor’s Letters! Our session quickly evolved from an On-Location Headshot session to a personal branding shoot, at Soper Hall, East Side Deli and in Chaldon. Time flew as we created a series of portraits of this talented lady.

Having started her career in journalism at the BBC on such hard hitting shows such as Newsnight, Louise knows everything anyone needs to know about breaking a story, and the power of creating a network of people to help bring those stories to life. With three fantastic children and a very supportive husband, Louise swapped her commute to London at the end of last year for a much shorter one from her home in Old Coulsdon. And the added bonus of being local? She really cares about the local community.

Louise has lived in the area all of her life, and from her office in Soper Hall, brings together the brand that is the Caterham and District Independent. Informal networking at East Side at the start of the year helped small businesses get to know each other, and with a busy Instagram and social media feed, the brand helps give businesses coverage in the local area. Where an appetite for consuming news online is becoming more the norm, there is still very much a demand for the physical paper, and as other brands fall away, The Caterham and District Independent is filling that hole being left by a decline in print. And I saw that for myself as Louise was filling the newspaper stand in the Caterham branch of Tesco on Tuesday, 5 people asked for a copy within a couple of minutes of us arriving!

Paper Editors sometimes have the stigma of hiding behind an email address, the gatekeeper to coverage in print, and notoriously tricky to get hold of! Not so for this lady. Bringing her friendly and can-do personality to the brand, she really is the heart and soul of the paper, coordinating some local writers, a designer, a radio show and the related logistics, a podcast and it’s producer, a paper delivery team and even curating community events such as Caterham Fest (held online during lockdown!). Collating articles, videos, soundbites, photographs and news that the community really wants to read and listen to is a full on lifestyle job, but what results is a brand that is fantastic to be part of, and the community should be very proud of.

Having edited a student paper myself back in my days in Oxford, late nights just before print deadlines are pretty usual, but Louise showed no sign of tiredness as we met bright and early last Monday (print day!) at Ridge Radio for the brand’s weekly news hour, broadcasting live from the base right in the heart of the district in Caterham’s Soper Hall. Under the watchful eye of DJ (and generally fantastic technician and controller) Andy Mac, playing tracks and talking about local news seemed to come naturally to Louise, and for anyone listening, her love for her work is infectious. As is her love of all things Christmas!

The following day I met her and a couple of her extended delivery team at The Arc, who help the newspaper land on thousands of doorsteps in Caterham, Whyteleafe, Warlingham, Woldingham, Old Coulsdon, Chaldon and Godstone. After deliveries to Tesco and the Post Office, Louise and her husband deliver the paper to businesses across the area, meaning that within 48 hours of news going to print, it is being read by the people who really matter, the community.

If you haven’t already seen the website, please check it out; it’s full of helpful articles on everything from copying with lockdown to community fundraising events and even an update from the local MP. Online coverage for local events can often be tricky to get, but it helps tremendously when such articles can be shared on social media, helping spread the word further and wider than just people’s immediate circle of connections.

On Thursday I went behind the scenes at a podcast recording with the creative genius behind the hugely successful Pleesecakes brand, Joe Moruzzi. Based in Redhill, the brand supply their fantastical cheesecakes all over the UK, through their online store and prestigious retailers such as Selfridges. (And the LightBar Cafe in Coulsdon by the way, slightly more local!) Having created showstopper pieces for the Queen, and This Morning amongst others, you might have seen this year’s new creation, The Notorious P.I.B Cake on last weekend’s Saturday Kitchen, voted best in their taste test. A slight twist though… this is Pleesecake’s first savoury creation, with P.I.B standing for Pigs in Blankets! A brilliant collaboration with the Jolly Hog, this quirky centrepiece is exactly the kind of thing that this disruptive brand will be bringing us in the future, so watch this space!

Anyway, back to the podcast, under the watchful eye of producer Al, Louise and Joe found mutual ground in championing small businesses, supporting the local area, and love of all things cheesecake! And by bringing the story behind the Pleesecake brand to the readers, listeners and followers of The Caterham and District Independent, this is a fantastic example of how this hard hitting journalist is bringing news with heart to the local area.

Happy 1st Birthday to the newly relaunched Caterham and District Independent, and huge congratulations to you Louise and the team. I can’t wait to see what next year has in store for you all!

With love, Rachel xx


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