The main difference? Fewer girls in bikinis…
Tag Archives: local papers
Unsurprisingly, journalism bloggers have been keen to jump on the relaunched Evening Standard as a topic for posting. (Surprisingly, I got in quite early – normally I’m days or weeks behind the curve).
I wrote that the Standard could go for a local news aggregation model in a bid to offer something different, and attractive, to readers.
FleetStreetBlues punts in with the notion that investigative journalism might be the Standard’s saving grace:
Why not completely scale back its general news coverage, relying more on wire copy for the stories that readers will already have seen or heard about elsewhere anyway, and put all its spare resources into investigative journalism?
It’s an interesting take. I’m a firm believer that no one is actually interested in the news anymore – a perhaps sad reflection on our shallow, trivia-obsessed society. (Or maybe just a sad reflection on me.) But also a reflection that there’s just too much of the stuff around.
But the FleetStreetBlues crowd have at least partly recognised this. The idea that you’d just give up on general reporting and use the wires – like the freebies do, I imagine – is bold and sensible.
I have to say I find their suggestion that “every day the newspaper vendor’s sandwich boards would be plastered with one jaw-dropping expose after another – so jaw-dropping that there and then readers would be willing to part with their 50p.” a little fanciful.
(Actually, so do they. “Could it work? Probably not”, they admit, cheerfully.)
But the idea that you should stop doing the things you’ve done for decades and think of doing something differently is key to making the modern news media work.
Yesterday I posted about how news wouldn’t be the selling point for the new-look Evening Standard, unless perhaps it was a real engagement with local news.
Obviously, Recovering Journalist Mark Potts takes a much more incisive and in-depth look at such issues – and his latest post is particularly relevant.
In it he suggests local news aggregation could be key to giving newspapers a stronger position in their community.
“I’m still waiting for the first big newspaper site to take a serious crack at aggregating all the local news and information it can find, regardless of source, and establishing itself as the expert on all things local … it’s a lot cheaper than putting more reporters on the street.
If the Evening Standard becomes a kind of portal for local news sources – bloggers, community newsletters, pictures, videos etc – it could use its sizeable distribution infrastructure to get that news to hundreds of thousands of commuters who might then have another reason to pick up a copy.
As Recovering Journalist says, there is no magic bullet to save newspapers. But if the Standard is looking for fresh ideas, it could do worse than take the risk.
Like many Londoners – or at least near-Londoners – I picked up a gratis copy of the Evening Standard (now rebranded the London Evening Standard) out of curiosity about how it could reinvent itself as a viable paid-for paper in a world where people [a] get their news for free, and up to date, from TV, radio and the web and [b] only really want to entertained for half an hour on the commute home.
The Evening Standard is enjoying some publicity over its “Sorry” campaign (the former editor hates it) and its promise to bring readers more “good news” (likewise).
Will this work? Despite ex-editor Veronica Wadley criticising the new editorial policy as resembling that of Soviet era Pravda, the Standard may be on to something.
The new editor, Geordie Greig, used to edit the Tatler, so that says something about his priorities – he likes the social scene, apparently, though he’s a bit of an intellectual. And he’s hung out with gangsters. Which is nice.
One clue about the Standard‘s new direction could be the big splash given to a piece by Tom Wolfe satirising financial excess. It reads well, and is in a different league to the usual free evening paper trivia.
The acid test will be whether Londoners are really hungry for a more upscale and substantial entertainment vehicle than they’ve already got – and whether they’ll make the effort to seek it out and pay for it. Both The London Paper and London Lite are pretty thin, but you have to work hard not to pick one up in the capital.
Crucially, Greig was quoted in a Guardian profile as not really being in tune with celeb culture:
“I don’t think I’d be very good at Heat, though. It wouldn’t excite me. You have to get a buzz, or it doesn’t work. But, you know, fantastic candyfloss.”
If it’s that kind of candyfloss that London commuters really want on the tube home, the Standard may be in trouble. But if it has at least learned the lesson that commuters prefer entertainment to run-of-the-mill news, that’s something.
So is there no room for news in, well, a newspaper?
Not if it’s just the same old rehashed stories you’ve seen or heard ever since the Today programme (or any radio news bulletin) at 7am. And I’m not sure I want to read serious in-depth analysis while I’m strap-hanging on the underground.
The one thing it might do is report real London news. Not the national government agenda – though obviously the UK government is in London. But local capital news that you don’t get to see otherwise.
But that’s tough to do. It requires resources, for one thing, which is something the print media is finding it can’t afford right now. And when it comes to real-time reporting, digital media are much better placed to handle breaking news or events.
When I wanted to follow the London Mayoral election last year, for example, I was out of town, and without a TV. The BBC web site, exemplary though it is in many respects, didn’t seem to have live, or even frequent, coverage. But there was a microblog reporting the latest developments from the count – a triumph of new media over old.
The website? Almost unbelievably, it was www.thelondonpaper.com. Yes, a Twitter-style feed from the trashy London freebie was the only source of up-to-the-minute political reporting I could find that night.
Lessons for the Evening Standard? You might as well try something truly different – the same old, same old really isn’t going to work anymore.
I poked fun at my local Surrey & Hants News recently for its slightly random headlines, but sometimes local papers get it just right.
This one made me smile – it’s punning and jokey, but tells you all you really need to know…