Author: davidhiggerson

Life is local: The councillor who won an election then declared himself null and void


We’ve all been there, well, most local government reporters have been. A by-election vote count is rarely going to trouble the front page of the paper or the upper echelons of Chartbeat Big Screen, but it’s something we attend because we feel we must.

For the Lancashire Telegraph, a bog-standard by-election count delivered a brilliant front page – the bizarre scenario of a Labour candidate being declared the winner, only for the vote to declared null and void because the winning candidate had declared himself disqualified from standing earlier in the day.

It turned out the Labour candidate worked for a firm owned by the council so was never eligible to stand in the first place, something you would have assumed the local Labour party (which runs the council) might have double checked first.

It led to this front page – and the prospect of another by-election in the same ward. Maybe more people than the 14% who bothered to turn out and vote will make an effort next time. Maybe:


Saturday Social: A week in which we learnt much about what people want from local news


It’s been one of those weeks when it’s hard to remember what was making the news prior to the one big thing which made every stop, stare and wonder ‘why’. This feature on the blog was set up with the intention of digging around into what people share and engage with from local media.

The theory – I guess a bit like The Guardian’s Northerner newsletter in its heyday – was that the best reflection of real-life UK comes from the regional press, and by looking at what was most likely to be engaged with on social media from the regional press, you can get a sense of what local people are most likely thinking about.

And, as I blogged on Thursday (I think), if looking at engagement with social media posts this week teaches us anything about local journalism, it’s that when a ‘national’ news story breaks, local journalists are relied upon by many to share reliable information.

Take, for example this post from the Scotsman on Wednesday afternoon, which was one of the regional Press Facebook posts to achieve the most interactions with readers:


For two newsrooms at least, the actions of MP Tobias Ellwood were particularly local:


London Attacks: Constant conversation with readers drives newsroom decisions

Why should local news outlets be reporting on events in London in real-time? That was the question posed by some on Twitter yesterday. What value does it add to live blog in Blackpool when events are happening 300 miles away?

One post given prominence by industry website Holdthefrontpage suggested local newsrooms were ‘milking a tragedy’ while another suggested ‘clicks were being put before the truth.’

The reality is far less sinister than that. Put simply, newsrooms responded to what their audiences were talking about. Just because we, as journalists, mark out our work between national news organisations and local ones doesn’t mean our readers do.

That is perhaps best evidenced by looking at some of the social media posts shared by local news organisations over the past 24 hours. They show that what some dismiss as ‘spurious local angles’ are actually of interest to local readers, while others demonstrate that local people are perfectly happy to get national news from a local news site, because they trust it as a news source.

The posts below have been selected because the were flagged up by Crowdtangle as either ‘overperforming’ (in relation to the posting page’s normal posts) or just being engaged with by a lot of people:


London attacks: How the regional press reported the tragedy in print

Yesterday’s terror attack in London was one of those events which falls into the ‘you’ll always remember where you were when you heard about it’ category.

This morning brought with it local newspapers up and down the country clearing space on their front pages to report on a unique national story – unique in that it’s perhaps the first national news story I can remember which was guaranteed to have a local angle for every newsroom in the country, given where it took place.

I’ll look at covering national news on local news websites in a future post, but for now, and offered without commentary, these are the front pages of papers whose editors felt today was a day to give local readers a regional take on a national story which will dominate the news agenda for weeks to come:


Life is local: When football makes the front page too


Every week, millions of people rely on their local newspapers and websites to keep them informed of what is happening in their area. When seen together, they can paint a picture of life in the UK in a way no other collection of stories can. Life is local – and this is a look at the front pages which stood out over the last seven days

It’s been one of those weeks when editors up and down the country have been clearing away the news from their front pages in favour of sport. Maybe it’s just that time of the season, but there has been a rash of managerial changes at football clubs.

Perhaps it tells you something about local opinion towards Derby manager Steve McClaren that when his sacking was announced, it only made the blurb on the front of the Derby Telegraph – but the arrival of his successor, Gary Rowett, took the splash:

4 derby


As Westminster becomes more self-absorbed, the local press is becoming the unofficial opposition on behalf of readers

For anyone who believes politics is actually a serious business, and worthy of something better than the Punch and Judy show we get every week at Prime Minister’s Questions, the current state of affairs is pretty depressing.

A prime minister who rarely answers the questions put to her (nothing new there) but who fails to deliver pre-planned soundbites with any flair, and who struggles to present any logical thinking behind government policies.

A leader of the opposition who seems incapable of being able to turn the many, many issues affecting normal people into meaningful political ammunition against the lacklustre PM, and who, as was pointed out last week, sometimes even fails to ask questions.


And the award for most unusual piece of crime prevention advice goes to…

When I saw the front page of the Accrington Observer this week, it was the subdeck which made me stop in my tracks:

4 accrington

17 years into the 21st century, is it really too much to expect that the only way to ensure someone doesn’t flash at you through your front window at night is by closing your curtains?

Apparently not – and this story surely wins the most surreal piece of crime prevention advice prize for 2017 – with this police quote:

“While these offences are concerning and distressing for the victims, the man has always run away once he has been seen and has never made any attempt to speak with or make contact with the victims.

“We would take this opportunity to advise local residents to remain vigilant and ensure their curtains or blinds are closed at night time.”

According to the article, he strikes at night … and has been getting away with it since 2011. 



Social: From nostalgia to nationalism, nothing will be the same again


Every week, millions – yes, millions – of people get news and information from the local Press via social media. And that makes the local Press every bit as important to local life as it ever was. But social media also puts the reader in charge, with their reactions determining the popularity and relevance of what we do. Using various data tools, he’s a round-up of some of the stories which  made an impact this week:

Nostalgia, the joke in some newsrooms goes, isn’t as good as it used to be. Ho ho ho. On social media, however, it’s often the sort of content which generates the most traction amongst readers.

Looking through the most engaging posts on social media last week from the regional press, this footage from yesteryear proved a hit for the Yorkshire Post:

Online, nostalgia doesn’t have to be that, well, old. And I’m determined for personal reasons not to consider anything from the 1990s as old. The Yorkshire Evening Post’s video of a nightclub in Leeds from the 1990s to probably the nostalgic Ying to the YP’s nostalgic Yang above, but it was very popular all the same:


Journalism’s biggest challenge: Objectivity really is subjective

As journalists, we’re used to being told we’re less popular than estate agents. But we’re also quick to shout that in an age of ‘fake news’ and ‘post fact politics’ the role of the impartial, objective journalist has never been more important.

But what if fake news and the ability of the likes of UKIP and Donald Trump to thrive in a ‘post fact’ world is less to do so-called ‘news literacy’ amongst the population and more to do with the fact that, well, the rules of journalism don’t wash well with many people any more.

Jeff Jarvis, speaking at the Guardian’s Changing Media event this week, hit the nail on the head when he said:

“There is a lot of talk about news literacy – I think that is a fairly patronising and condescending view, in that ‘you must be literate to our news’, but I think the media as a whole needs to become more public-literate. The public now creates media and informs itself with every click and share.”

As journalists, we’re very good at justifying what we do and why we do it. We believe in what we do. But what if our rules aren’t the rules the people who matter most, our readers, care to appreciate?


Life is Local: It’s all about council tax, then (but so much more too)


Every week, millions of people rely on their local newspapers and websites to keep them informed of what is happening in their area. When seen together, they can paint a picture of life in the UK in a way no other collection of stories can. Life is local – and this is a look at the front pages which stood out over the last seven days

With councils up and down the country setting their council tax for the forthcoming year, it’s hardly a surprise to see the results of their decisions – against a backdrop of spending cuts at the same time – making the front pages.

In South Wales this week, neighbouring (sort of ) papers had very different takes on the goings on at their councils: