Life is Local: Erm, maybe the NHS is in crisis

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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

The New Year began with what is rapidly becoming a tradition – problems. in the NHS as winter prompted a rise in demand. Who’d have thunk it? The government’s decision to tell hospitals they could cancel all non-urgent operations in January prompted accusations of the NHS being in crisis.

“Oh no,” replied the government. “It’s not a crisis, because we planned for this to happen.”

But if it looks like a crisis, smells like a crisis, is felt to be a crisis by those involved, is it a crisis? Certainly a crisis-like problem made it on to the front pages of regional papers across the UK this week:

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The Letters Page where seagulls dare

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I think I might be developing a bit of an obsession for the letters pages of local newspapers.

Or maybe I was just surprised to see a letter in the Tindle-owned Cornish Times this week which had been written so as to apparently be from a seagull.

Like dog poo and bin collections, the problems caused by seagulls are popular fodder for letters pages (which in turn serve as a timely reminder of what really matters to readers).

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

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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…

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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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