21 September 2014

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Dyson at Large: Editor's dilemma a nice one to have

The Croydon Advertiser would have had a huge dilemma on press day for its March 5 edition: which splash-worthy story to lead with?

Editor Andy Worden selected well, the ‘SEX PEST PERVERT TEACHER IS JAILED’ headline pushing all the right buttons.

It involved a local school big enough to name without getting into legal trouble over the victim’s anonymity.

The Advertiser also had images of the offending teacher who lived in the borough and had continued to harass the 14-year-old victim after his initial arrest.

As one of the main comprehensives, this was the sort of scandal that would have been the talk of the town, hundreds of fraught parents avidly sharing their views on the teacher’s 30-month jail term.

But how great it was to see a weekly newspaper with a healthy choice of splashes… and I’m not talking about just one alternative.

On page seven was the funeral of a local publican shot dead on New Year’s Eve, his brother paying tribute after struggling out of the wheelchair he’d been confined to after being shot four times himself in the same incident, (this was also a picture write-off on page one.)

On page nine was an exclusive about 14 Croydon teachers who’d spent more than £10,000 of tax-payers’ money travelling to Australia to learn about computers, (this grabbed a boost spot on page one as well.)

And on page 11 was another exclusive, a chat with a man who’d walked free from court after fatally stabbing an armed intruder at his home.

‘Churnalism’ is obviously NOT an issue on the Advertiser, as the edition I read was littered with plenty of other fine, self-generated page leads throughout the book.

Thorough education coverage included a row over primary school entry classes on page two; the linked anguish of pupils refused places at their chosen secondary schools on page eight; and sports giants Brian Lara and Dwight Yorke visiting a local school on page four.

Detailed civic reporting included a call to upgrade Croydon Parish Church into a ‘minster’ as part of the borough’s drive to become a city on page three; Lord Mandelson helping to save Croydon’s Allders department store on page six; and the first chat with the new boss of the much-loved Fairfield Halls concert hall on page 13.

Looking at the page two information panel, I can see that Advertiser editor Worden has solid backing, the editor-in-chief of East Surrey and Sussex News and Media titles being the legendary Frank le Duc.

Bosses aside, the Advertiser also appears to have some talent on the ground, including a local government reporter who’s just completed 40 years with the paper.

Amidst all the criticism Northcliffe gets, it’s encouraging to see such continued investment some two-and-a-half years after it bought the Advertiser in a package from previous owners Trinity Mirror.

And it’s just as well, the Advertiser competing as it does against Newsquest’s much larger circulation Croydon Guardian, and with the free, council-funded Your Croydon also creating an unfair distraction (and £500,000 annual cost) to readers.

Bearing this in mind, the Advertiser’s -11.9pc figures compare well to the Guardian’s -22.6pc decline in the same July to December 2009 ABC Report.

For their 60p a week, the remaining 16,522 purchasers of the Advertiser got 121 stories on 28 news pages, and another 55 entertainment reports or listing columns on 14 pages of its ‘Go!’ supplement.

On the critical side, there were just nine letters to be found on a fairly airy ‘Your Say’ spread on pages 30 and 31, but this was perhaps balanced by 18 ‘Community News’ reports on another spread on pages 34 and 35.

Crystal Palace fans had a treat of a read with six detailed pages, three of them full of departing Neil Warnock’s rage hitting out at the club’s administrators.

In total, there were 70 local sports reports on 12 pages… the best performance in this section since Dyson at Large began.

Amongst all the content, I was pleased to find a whole page of ‘Planning Applications’ in six-point on page 38, a detail local papers often exclude but which I believe is a real driver if consistently carried in each edition.

And I was delighted to find a section I’ve not seen anywhere before: ‘Interments and cremations’ on page 22, an entire list of that week’s funerals in the Borough of Croydon, complete with name, age, district and place of ‘despatch’.

Surely this is great additional and free community content for an newspaper?

Read Steve’s previous blog posts here

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  • Steve Dyson worked in the regional press for 20 years, editing weekly, Sunday and daily newspapers in the North East and the Midlands from 2002 until the end of 2009. To contact him, email steve.dysonmedia@googlemail.com.

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    Comments

    Welfs (17/03/2010 09:43:57)
    All crime and court stories though, innit?
    Good treatment of diary stuff but not hard to find.

    ajinexile (17/03/2010 09:47:55)
    “You can stand in Croydon waiting for a good story to come along, then six of them all come at once.” Thought the boost box about the teachers’ trip to Australia could have been worded stronger

    hilary (17/03/2010 10:13:34)
    Good content…just a shame it’s subbed in Chelmsford, Essex, a world away. Mistakes are bound to appear if they haven’t already!

    Trev (17/03/2010 11:54:48)
    I’m not sure Northcliffe deserve much credit. They’ve added nothing and taken away a fair bit. The Advertiser is a decent paper because of the efforts of the staff over a number of years in the face of a whole pile of obstacles placed in their way, firstly by Trinity and then by Northcliffe. And watch this space for imminent ‘portfolio improvements’.

    Steve Dyson (17/03/2010 16:58:04)
    Thanks for all comments. In fairness, Welfs, the teachers’ beano to Oz was not crime or court. I agree with your point on the p1 boost for this story, ajinexile. Re hilary’s comment on subbing hubs and potential errors, while it’s a valid opinion it seems this is a continuing industry trend. I just think bosses should consider VERY carefully just how far away from titles such hubs should be, (ie: Plymouth in Bristol is too far, in my opinion). As to Trev’s hint of ‘portfolio improvements’, I sincerely hope this does mean cuts for what I considered an excellent Croydon Advertiser.

    Steve Dyson (18/03/2010 13:06:24)
    Talking of subs… Please read that as: “I sincerely hope this does NOT mean cuts for what I considered an excellent Croydon Advertiser.” !!



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