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

real-world-news

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:

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Life is local: Front pages containing stories to make you laugh, cry and wonder why…

real-world-news

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

Five days ago the South Wales Argus reported on how Marjorie Ovens would soon turn 100 but had no family – and expected not to get any birthday cards either.

The Argus had a simple request of its readers: Could you send Marjorie a card? The answer, from hundreds, was ‘yes.’ Five days later and this was a front page to make even the most cynical of journos smile:

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The real stories of local people, carefully told, is what the regional press is surely all about. And it wasn’t just the Argus demonstrating that this week.

Several regional newspapers led their Wednesday editions with coverage of the Tunisia terror attack inquests.  The verdict, that they were unlawfully killed, came as no surprise, and for the families, the details of the cowardice of those who were meant to look after their loved ones was not a shock either, even if it was for the rest of us.

Beyond the global headlines lie many local stories, sensitively told by several regional papers:

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How journalists can beat Facebook’s algorithm (but don’t expect a quick fix!)

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Should journalism be fearful of Facebook? Or, indeed, any other platform which has been successful in attracting a large number of people and, crucially, a large proportion of their time spent online?

If the thing getting so much attention banned journalism, or journalists, from existing within the walled garden it had created, and which so many people were happy to spend so much time resident in, then yes, that would be bad news.

But that’s not where Facebook is. It is huge, and can probably lay claim to being the power behind maybe half of the most-used apps in the world. And that could make it dangerous of course, but no more dangerous than anything which is so dominant has the potential to be.  Like a government with a landslide majority and, in theory, the mandate to anything it wants,  Facebook will also know that its strength as a business comes from its dominance, and a dominance it needs to preserve.

That dominance of user time will only continue for as long as it continues to deliver what people want on there, and the prospect of 80% of mobile web time being spent within a cluster of a person’s chosen apps within two years will be focusing minds like never before.

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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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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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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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This glimpse into the future of Academy education from the Liverpool Echo will horrify any journalist

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It might look like an office block, but it’s actually an Academy, and one which is giving journalists a glimpse of what an Academy-only future might be like for journalists

For Government, it’s all about devolution at the moment. Even if you put to one side George Osborne’s obsessive Northern Powerhouse proposal, the idea of devolution runs through almost every government department.

The problem, however, is that it appears to be devolution regardless of what the public thinks. At the turn of the decade, there was precious little support for the idea of city or metro mayors, even with the promise of new powers and spending for regions, when it was put to public votes.

The Government’s solution has been to push ahead with devolution anyway – by removing the need for it to have public support. 

And last week came news of perhaps the greatest devolution of all – making all schools become academies. It’s an idea which the trade unions already hate, and the far-left Labour Party of 2016 is sure to fight tooth and nail against (although it’s fair to assume the most effective opposition will come from the select committees and the House of Lords).

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