Social: Shouting about trust

 

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On Friday, something a little special happened within the regional Press. An industry built on journalistic competition came together across the country with one aim: To shout about our most special asset: Our trusted journalism.

In an age of fake news, misinformation, disinformation and of suspicion or contempt for anything outside the personal social bubble, regional journalism could probably be accused of not doing enough to shout about why it is still a trusted source of news and information.

Over the past 10 days, titles from publishers across the country have run a campaign called ‘Fighting Fake News’ which sought to spell out the processes the regional Press has in place to ensure that the news published is as accurate as can be. Of course, there will always be mistakes – but part of the campaign was explaining what happens when mistakes do happen, and that the regional Press never sets out to mislead.

Last Friday was ‘interactive day’ for the campaign, with dozens of newsrooms using the hashtag #trustednewsday to give readers an insight into what we do. Every journalist has probably experienced the multitude of questions people ask about what we see as mundane parts of our job when we reveal what we do for a living. #trustednewsday tapped into that sense of curiosity.

Of course, there were difficult messages coming back from readers. The curse of Fake News is that whenever we get something wrong, it’s likely it’ll be billed as Fake News by someone, even if just in jest. In Q and As readers asked about clickbait, spelling errors, training, mistakes and increasing cover prices. the best way to deal with such complaints is to behave as every other customer service industry does – by tackling it head on and either promising to do better or explaining why a situation is so.

Some of the highlights from the day on social media are below – hopefully plenty of food for thought for future campaigns up and down the country. There were many more great examples too.

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Social: 10 of the most shared stories of the week from the Regional Press

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Sometimes, looking at what gets shared most frequently on social media gives you an insight into life you perhaps weren’t expecting. For all the rolling of eyes you get from ex-journalists, academics and keyboard warriors about using audience data, that data is often very revealing.

Take Kodi boxes. Kodi what? A set-top streaming box which, if not used properly, can actually be illegal to use. Stories about these boxes have become the cat nip of local journalism in recent months – and before the shriek of ‘clickbait’ goes up, the stories tend to be read by predominantly local audiences, who spend a long time on the pages with the articles.

This week, the most ‘viral’ story from the regional Press (viral defined as most over-performing posts from news brands) came from the Yorkshire Evening Post, with news on possible 10-year jail sentences if caught using a Kodi box the wrong way. It’s a great example of taking a national news story (about a new Act becoming law) and putting into relevant terms for local readers:

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Social: Behind every national story lies a strong local one

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It was the moment which captured the nation’s imagination during the London Marathon – when one man gave up a potential personal best to help another runner over the line. It turned out to be the most talked-about story of the week on social media from the regional Press too – with WalesOnline the title which had the strongest local line to follow. They captured the mood brilliantly:

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Social: Why speed cameras are more interesting than politicans

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If the news agenda is to be believed this week, we’ve been talking about nothing but the general election in our day to day lives. Not for the first time, the stories getting reaction on social media from the local press perhaps challenge our sense of what readers want and expect.

But some good news (Holdthefrontpage commenters look away now!) One of the best-performing regional Press posts of the week was this one from The National – the pro-independence title based in Glasgow:

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Social: Why good news is often the best news for readers

 

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In Hartlepool, a new weekly newspaper has launched, Prolific North reported this week. Hartlepool Life, with a run of 25,000 a week, is focused on the positive things in life.

The anti-digital message from the journalists behind it is nothing new when reading about start-up news organisations, with former Hartlepool Mail picture editor Dirk Van Der Werff stating:

“Our newspaper is only posted online the day before the next issue so we can refer people to it. Putting news online has killed so many newspapers, including the one we all loved so dearly, so we’re not making the same mistake.”

That simply isn’t true – as anyone who explores the question of “What would have happened if newspapers hadn’t put news online?” knows. The challenge for local journalism is much more profound, as illustrated by the fact Hartlepool Life is a free publication. But of Hartlepool Life’s ‘unique selling point’ Dirk, I think, is on to something:

Facebook and online forums do anger and darkness and negativity so much better nowadays, so we’re a newspaper without any of those things – and our readers love it.”

While it would be wrong to suggest that ‘bad’ news stories aren’t working online for local journalists – indeed, a look through the most-read articles across the network of websites I work with shows they are generally the most popular with casual and loyal readers alike, and tend to be posted as reference points to the forums and social networks being mentioned above – there’s no doubt the digital age has brought about a change in thinking about positive news.

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Social: Stories which brought out the social in social media

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What do we learn about regional journalism and its readers when we look at the stories most-shared on social media this week?

Journalists are often taught to avoid cliches at all costs, but every now and again, a cliche just happens to be the best form of words to describe what’s happening.

Take the story of Bradley Lowery, the brave little boy whose fight against neuroblastoma really has ‘touched the hearts of a nation.’ Rarely a week goes by when an update about the five-year-old, who has been taken to the heart of his local football club Sunderland in recent months, isn’t widely shared on social media.

In one sense, it’s a reminder of the ‘social’ side of social media. It can be a place of hateful trolls, of bullying and abuse, but it can also be a place where people come together to support others.

This week, the most popular regional press story was of Bradley running out as one of the England mascots in when England played Lithuania at Wembley on Sunday:

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

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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:

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