So where were you when you heard Baroness Thatcher, Britain’s first – and to date, only – female prime minister had died? I was on a conference call and brought proceedings to an abrupt end by shouting out ‘Margaret Thatcher’s died.’ Conference calls being what they are, my line cut out and I had, rather awkwardly, repeat it again.
Who was it who told you? For me, it was Stan Collymore. Really. It was his Tweet popping up on my screen which told me Baroness Thatcher had died. Being a journalist, I dug around for another source too. But if ever there was proof was ability of social media to get breaking news to people in a way radio, TV, news websites and certainly newspapers can only dream of, it was an event like this.
All of which poses a bit of a dilemma for regional newspapers. With the vast majority now printed overnight, how do you respond to a huge story guaranteed to take up acres of national news print … and which judging by this snapshot of the BBC’s most viewed stories on its website just after 8pm on Monday, was already less popular than a celebrity story:
The answer is revealed in the gallery below (you can find Peter Sands’ thoughts on the designs of some of the papers here). For the traditional ‘morning’ newspapers such as The Journal, Western Mail and Western Morning News, Thatcher made the front page, with some very striking designs.
For the old ‘evening’ newspapers, it was a more mixed picture. As website editors in regional newsrooms will tell you (with maybe the exception of the Grantham Journal) with a big story like this, there might be an initial flurry of interest, but within 24 hours, local – exclusive – news is once again driving traffic.
And I think that is reflected in the mix of front pages. Some titles did splash on Thatcher – her legacy in certain parts of the country is perhaps too great. The Sheffield Star is one example, as is the Nottingham Evening Post. The North Wales Daily Post splashed on one edition with Thatcher, as did both Belfast newspapers. No surprise that she dominated the front pages of the South Wales Evening Post, Argus and Echo either.
The Birmingham Mail’s front page stands out – not just because the new design has been used so well – with an interview with Thatcher from 1978, plus a 24-page supplement inside. The Portsmouth News, meanwhile, carried 10 pages on the news.
Some titles found other local links as a reason to splash – the Derby Telegraph pointing out on the front that she was a fan of the city’s china, while the Worcester News had a nice front page celebrating her love of the city. The Swindon Advertiser carried an interview with an MP who said Thatcher was the reason why he came into politics.
Elsewhere, however, the story was secondary to other stories which are could well have shifted more papers. Take the Bristol Post for example, led with a stalker, while the Bournemouth Echo led with a hospital ward being closed because of an outbreak of a virus.
The Hull Daily Mail led with a benefits cheat, but had my favourite Thatcher blurb – remembering her one – and only – visit to Hull back in the late 70s. The Gloucester Citizen gave its Thatcher coverage equal billing to a Subway meal deal offer – and why not? For the Manchester Evening News – one of the titles I work with which was all over the Thatcher local lines online on Monday – Thatcher was clearly the second story in town … there are many more people in Manchester talking about the Derby result, you’d imagine.
Two titles had ‘newsy’ lines on Thatcher to splash with – the East Anglian Daily Times splashed on a deputy head who wrote an offensive Tweet about getting out the champagne, while the Bradford Telegraph and Argus led with comments from local MP George Galloway, who was always going to go off like a firework.
For the Wolverhampton Express and Star and Shropshire Star, their off-stone times are late enough for the news to have made their Monday papers, while the Carlisle News and Star ran a late edition also.
One common theme does echo through all the newspapers though – and that’s the value of our archives. There are some amazing pictures and spreads inside many of the day’s regional press. Titles I work with have made the most of those images online too.Our past can be our biggest asset in the future – and I think today’s mix of newspaper coverage shows no-one judges the mood of a local community as well as the local newspaper.
And that’s probably why the front pages of the Liverpool ECHO and Coventry Telegraph made it on to the BBC’s 10pm news tonight.