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How to report Brexit locally: 15 very different front pages (in my opinion)

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Earlier, I shared a collection of regional press front pages from the day after the Brexit vote became known.

I think they showed the relevance of regional print titles to readers, running alongside the live news services and engaging content provided by those titles’ digital operations.

In fact, I suspect many of the regional front pages from Saturday, June 25 were influenced by what newsrooms could see was resonating online, and then applying that knowledge to crafting some of the most important front pages of the year.

Below – in time-honoured online listicle form! – are 15 of the front pages that stood out for me, and why:

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The morning after the night before: How the regional Press responded to Brexit

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The events of the early hours of June 24 – when it was confirmed that Britain had voted by a narrow margin to leave the EU – are still causing shockwaves three weeks on.

This was arguably a unique news event, one of national and international importance, yet also incredibly local too. As such, there should perhaps be no surprise that the story of Brexit made it on to pretty much every regional newspaper front page on Saturday.

Many regional papers had booked on-day print slots to cover events as they unfolded over breakfast, when the result of the referendum was due. As well as the result, those titles got David Cameron’s resignation on to the front page too.

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Burgers or politics? To be relevant, local newsrooms need to be experts in both

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One of the claims frequently made about newsrooms which are seeking to grow the number of people who read their websites is: “Oh, they’re just chasing clickbait now.”

Clickbait, as I’ve written before, appears to cover a very broad church of content, roughly characterised as “Not what we’ve always done in the past.”

A more recent trend amongst journalistic commentators has been to try and contrast two types of journalism, and to argue that the quality of journalism is reducing as a result. Press Gazette – a publication which is no stranger to the changing habits of readers  – recently cited the Nottingham Post liveblogging the opening of a new KFC as proof that journalistic standards were being sacrificed in pursuit of page views.

And last week, the National Union of Journalists leader at Media Wales – home of WalesOnline, the largest Welsh news site around and our fastest-growing website in the regionals stable at Trinity Mirror – turned to the BBC to express his views that serious journalism was being sacrificed in favour of “lifestyle type journalism.”

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EU referendum: What does the social media reaction tell us about coming out in favour of Remain?

Several titles I work with have, over the past week, urged readers to vote ‘remain’ in Thursday’s EU referendum.

Contrary to the popular myth being shared on some parts of social media by Brexiteers, each editor has been free to decide whether their titles should back either side, or remain neutral.

I think the titles which have taken a side – including the Newcastle Journal, Birmingham Mail, Liverpool Echo and Manchester Evening News – are proof that you can take a position on something while still providing balanced coverage.

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Journalism’s challenge isn’t Facebook. It’s much bigger than that

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The annual Reuters Institute Digital News Report contains so many interesting insights into where online journalism – and the consumption of it – is heading it can be hard to know where to start.

Most of the coverage has focused around the stat that up to half of people now get their news on social media, with a growing number using it as their main source of news.

And with that came a grim summary from one of the authors of the report, according to the FT:

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, the Reuters Institute director of research, said: “The move towards a more distributed environment offers publishers opportunities to reach new audiences on an unprecedented scale, but as people increasingly access news via third-party platforms, it will become harder and harder for most publishers to stand out from the crowd, connect directly with users, and make money.”

It led some commentators to suggest that Facebook is effectively bankrupting the news industry – by hoovering up huge chunks of advertising (which presumably was destined for news publishers instead, a bit of a big leap to make) and not actually investing in content creation itself.

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How the murder of Jo Cox was covered by the regional Press

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:

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FOI Friday: School holidays, council houses, non-paying councillors (again) and more

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Asbesto in publicly-owned homes <Beyond the Pillars

Blog Beyond the Pillars, which covers issues involving the North Ireland government, used FOI recently to find out how many homes owned by the NI Housing Executive – in other words, council homes – had asbestos in them. The answer: 70,000. 70,000! Three-fifths of publicly-owned homes, in other words.

Trying to get this information in England, for example, would be much harder, because Housing Associations remain outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act, despite the fact that most of them were created out of old housing departments within councils.

There has been talk of including Housing Associations under the scope of FOI – but little action.

However, according to the Whatdotheyknow website:

If a Housing Association is strictly subject to the Freedom of Information Act depends on if it is wholly owned by public bodies. According to a Housing Corporation statment on accessing information: “You can also write to housing associations. Most try to be as open as possible and will provide you with information when they are able. The Housing Corporation requires housing associations to be accessible, accountable and transparent to residents and other stakeholders. The National Housing Federation Code of Governance states that associations should operate in an open and accountable manner by generally making information about their work available to their residents, local communities and other stakeholders.” *.

Also the Information Commissioner has ruled that Housing Associations are subject to the Environmental Information Regulations.

Based on the above, then surely the BTP FOI request is one worth trying with Housing Associations across the rest of the UK?

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The currency of endorsement (or why Facebook likes matter)

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Every month, brands within the company I work for, Trinity Mirror, publish the number of followers they have on Facebook and Twitter, along with unique browser data.

Every month, the data is picked up by the trade press, including sites such as Hold the Front Page, and reported in a straight-down-the-middle sort of way.

And every month, the same conversation begins in the comments section. “What’s the point of counting your Twitter followers” or “Where’s the money in Facebook likes?”

It’s a discussion which happens in newsrooms too, and the idea of counting followers and likes only really makes sense if you buy into the fact readers have a new sort of currency to bestow on you: Their endorsement.

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The problem with local elections? National politics

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When Jeremy Vine dances across his election map at some point on Friday, and declares it’s been a good night for the Tories, or a bad day for Labour, what he’s actually saying is ‘Local democracy is failing.’

Because local politics should be about local issues. It should be about people engaging with the issues affecting them locally and getting the chance to choose between candidates who, while loosely representing political parties, are slugging it out not on political colours, but important local matters.

National politicians, however, don’t seem to see it that way. And for as long as that doesn’t change, then the chances of people really engaging with their right to vote in local election in the sorts of numbers we saw in previous decades remains slim. The game of politics wins, the strength of local communities diminishes.

Local politicians always wring their hands at low turnouts in local elections. But what do they expect when the prime minister uses phrases like this:

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