Riots in the UK: Friday’s regional newspaper front pages – telling the story far and wide

A LOOK through Friday’s regional newspapers demonstrates just how far the impact of the rioting in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool and Gloucester was felt, with papers often hundreds of miles away from looting finding local angles on the story.

In Gwent, South Wales, the South Wales Argus led with a police warning that they were monitoring people on Facebook and Twitter ahead of the weekend, while down the road in Swansea (ok, so my Welsh geography isn’t great), the South Wales Evening Post had news of two arrests in what it called a ‘copycat riot probe.’ There was news of similar arrests on the front pages of the Shropshire Star, the Northampton Chronicle, the Shields Gazette and the Daily Gazette in Colchester.

Perhaps the most far-flung story of an arrest was in Exeter, where the Express and Echo had news of a university student – the daughter of a millionaire – in court charged with stealing TVs during a riot, a claim she denies.

In areas which had riots on their doorsteps, the focus was split between finding those responsible and reporting on those who were already appearing before the courts. The Liverpool ECHO led with dramatic pictures of riot police calling on suspects, while the Nottingham Evening Post had details of one teenager’s appearance in court for rioting, in which a judge asked the accused how the defendant felt to be considered scum by members of the public. The Gloucester Citizen had details of two in court for the attacks in their city, while the Birmingham Mailreported on ‘speedy justice’ for the looters, as well as focusing on the grieving father who is widely credited for halting the riots in Birmingham just hours after his son was killed. Inside, the Mail had four pages of readers letters on the riots – proof, if it were needed, of just how interested readers are in this story.

In Manchester, the focus was also on those appearing in court. The MEN front page was a rogue’s gallery of those who had been prosecuted already, with many images coming from Greater Manchester Police which, unlike colleagues in the West Midlands, is freely releasing images of those convicted.

I flagged up the MEN’s front page on Thursday as being superb – and it’s worth mentioning the paper’s page two and three spread from Friday, which has arguably the longest magistrates’ court report in history:

It’s packed with dozens of names of people being prosecuted for the riots at special court sittings. I’d bet there hasn’t been a page of text so readily consumed by readers for a long time.  Down the M62 in Liverpool and the Liverpool Daily Post was focusing on the need to spread the message that the city was still open for business, while the Huddersfield Examiner was reporting on details of the looting of an Asda store – complete with CCTV images. Huddersfield failed to register on the national radar as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool exploded.

One of the more unusual connections to

the rioting came in the Swindon Advertiser, where Swindon Advertiser reported on how Swindon Town’s game with Cheltenham was called off, and then put back on again as police decided they could man the match after all. In Yorkshire, largely untouched by rioting, the Yorkshire Post led on an interview a senior police chief dismissing the idea of water cannons, but urging the public to back police more.

Weekly newspapers were also out in great numbers on Friday, and for many it was the first chance to reflect on troubles in their area. The Sutton Coldfield Observer spoke on shops in the town being put on ‘red alert’ as Birmingham erupted, while the Wolverhampton Chronicle opted for the more simple ‘Trashed’ to describe what happened in the Black Country earlier in the week. The Solihull News, meanwhile, told of police anger at hoax calls that riots were kicking off in the leafy town.

There were also reports of local trouble which hadn’t previously been picked up, such as 50 youths rioting through the centre of Bacup, a small town in Lancashire, as reported by the Rossendale Free Press. In Crewe, the ChronicleXtra free paper told of how police responded to riot threats in Cheshire.

The Burnley Express led with with headline ‘Don’t Be Scared’ – an almost ironic statement when written in bold 120pt letters with an an exclamation mark after it – after an interview with the police. The Uttoxeter Post and Times had a first-hand account of the Manchester riot from a local man.

In London, The Ealing Gazette, which covers one of the flashpoints in London, told of ‘fear, shock, anger’ as it reflected on a week which has seen the community pull together. The Fulham Chronicle told how the local council was gearing up to evict rioters from council houses, while in the Kensington Chronicle, restaurant workers told how they fought off looters who were trying to raid their place of work. The Southall Gazette told how local people pulled together to protect their community. The Romford Recorder had news of a rioter aged just 11 on its front.

So which front page gets to be my utterly meaningless front page of the day? Well, being the geek that I am, I’ve gone for three, two of which are from the Croydon Advertiser, the only paper I’ve seen so far to do a wraparound for what was arguably the biggest story Croydon will see for a long time. And not just one wraparound, but different ones for different editions:

and….

There were several others too. What stands out about these two front pages is that they aren’t the obvious story from Croydon – that of Reeves’ Furniture Store going up in flames. These front pages show that many more lives have been wrecked by what has gone on this week, with the bottom one especially showing how zooming in on one story among a thousand can make for a powerful front page.

The other front page on my list is this one from the Leicester Mercury:

I can’t work out why it stands out so much. I’m not sure if it’s the wob, the very non-fussy headline or the series of quite clear CCTV images. Maybe it’s all the things combined.

Hopefully this post, along with one looking at Thursday, and one looking at Wednesday, have helped to demonstrate just what a good job many local newspapers did in covering the riots and how they effected their areas. At times of crisis, a good local newspaper – and associated website – is essential, even today.

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