The murder of West Yorkshire MP Jo Cox – shot and stabbed while in her constituency yesterday – is one of those events which stops you in your tracks. It’s one of those occasions which you’ll always be able to tell people where you were when you heard about it.
In a world of push notifications, email alerts, Facebook statuses and Tweets by the second, the murder of a much-loved MP handed local news organisations two challenges: How to cover a breaking news story sensitively while all sorts of information and suggestions swirled around, and how to deliver details of events in a way which blended fact and emotion the next day.
During ‘breaking news’ events, social media has changed journalism in many ways – but often overlooked now is the mind-boggling amount of reaction and sentiment which is instantly on tap, as well as the facts. Blending that with newspaper design requires skill, sensitivity and a strong understanding of what local readers will respond to.
But before the paper comes the ‘live’ coverage. Regional news websites are increasingly learning to distinguish between different types of audience online. There’s the social media audience, keen to share information from trusted sources, and then there’s the brand-loyal audience, who know to turn to the brand they trust.
Then there’s the audience who want to stick with a site for constant updates, or the reader who may be a loyal regular or who just knows to come to the brand because it’s trust-worthy, who wants a more traditional 300 words and picture to explain what’s happening.
Combine that with the expectation from all sorts of readers that what the local Press covers isn’t just the news but also information – which roads are closed? Are the schools still in lockdown? Will the market be open tomorrow? – and you get a sense of the many considerations which have to be factored in on a minute by minute basis.
There are four local daily papers/websites in West Yorkshire which cover Jo Cox’s constituency – The Huddersfield Examiner, Bradford Telegraph and Argus, Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post – and all will have known that the next day’s front page didn’t just have to report the news, but also sum up the sentiment and feeling in the area.
All four, in my non-trained eye, did just that:
Other regional titles ran the story on the front page. The Northern Echo’s front page was particularly striking:
The Western Mail also stood out for me, as the positioning of the Wales v England story and the death of Jo Cox rather summed up the way the day unfolded, with the big event millions had been looking forward to overshadowed at a stroke by an event no-one could have predicted:
The Belfast Telegraph – another title with a significant football match to report on – reported on the echoes to events in Belfast’s past which the murder of Jo Cox had evoked:
In Cambridge, the fact Jo Cox was a university graduate from the city’s university was referenced on the front page:
And perhaps summing up the way the death of Jo Cox reverberated around the country, the Leicester Mercury splashed on how EU referendum campaigning came to a standstill in the city, with Eddie Izzard cancelling a speech and other events also postponed.
Yesterday was a terribly sad day for our country. It was also a day when many titles in the regional press showed how to blend emotion with fact, the instant with the considered, print with online in a way which I imagine we will come to discover was appreciated by tens of thousands of readers.