A top splash, confident news and sports intros and strong online boosts to the newspaper made the Peterborough Evening Telegraph an enjoyable review.
But for goodness sake, spread this succinct style into the business section, which felt slow, awkward and read like an advertising supplement.
‘MAN IN COURT OVER A1 DEATH CRASH’ was the page one headline on 16 February.
The crash was a major one from 12 February, and police had arrested and charged a Peterborough man with taking without consent, driving dangerously and causing the death of a road worker.
The accused was named, with age, full address, initial reaction from neighbours and a thorough but legally sound description of the incident.
This was clearly the best story of the day, containing facts that readers turn to their local paper for after a fatal road crash, providing plenty of pub banter for that evening.
What I really liked about this story, and indeed about the majority of news and sports reports in this 56-page Tuesday edition, were the tightest of first pars.
Page one lead, 17 words; page five lead, 21; page seven lead, 24; back page lead, 18; page 55 lead, 17; page 54 lead, 17, and so on.
This pithy style made a teenagers’ Facebook petition over bus cuts an enticing read, took you straight into a £500,000 city centre pub renovation and revealed Roy Keane’s raw trepidation for that night’s Peterborough v Ipswich match, (he was right – Posh thwacked Ipswich 3-1).
Where, then, did this conciseness go in the eight-page ET Business pull-out?
The business splash intro: “The Eagle Business Park is definitely going to be a pocket of employment with, eventually, about 200 direct jobs offered by about 15 to 20 companies.”
Blimey! Cagey tautology or what?
The page three business lead: “Chartered accountants Rawlinsons has launched a joint venture with Peterborough-based software provider Cirrus in order to offer an integrated one-stop shop combining HR and payroll software together with practical advice and service solutions.”(Yawn.)
The business spread: “Roses are red, roses are white, roses are pink and almost any other colour… and now, a deep passion for bringing top-quality, beautifully fresh roses to your home is the inspiration for a new website.”
This had me searching for an ‘Advertising Feature’ header or an advert for the Purely Roses company, (I found neither).
One of the first rules learnt at any decent journalism college: make dropped intros a rarity, and start again if you bumble into much more than 25 words.
Tell ‘em what it’s about in a snappy sentence, expand in par two, amplify in par three, then quotes and balance.
Editor Mark Edwards clearly has strong story-telling skills in his newsroom, and needs one of these wordsmiths to knock business copy into shape. Enough said.
Online, I was delighted to see the Evening Telegraph logo as the dominant brand of each page, the peterboroughtoday.co.uk address a simple underline.
The homepage displayed the simple word ‘Newspaper’ as a top link on its toolbar, leading to a full page of information about the Evening Telegraph printed product.
A scroll down the same homepage found a second strong graphic boost to the newspaper reading: ‘Free delivery! Delivering your Evening Telegraph newspaper directly to your door.’
This was a live link to another full online page about the newspaper, its daily features, paper round jobs, back issues service and more.
The blurb again underlined the offer: ‘Direct Delivery is our home delivery service enabling you to have the Peterborough Evening Telegraph delivered to your door. Sign up to our Direct Debit service and delivery is free!’
This is great stuff, simple online calls to print that so many newspaper websites could immediately emulate.
Other points to highlight:
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Paul (24/02/2010 10:31:17)
All the hallmarks of copying and pasting press releases.
AJinexile (24/02/2010 11:28:09)
@Paul: I don’t understand your comment. Are you talking about the atrocious business page items? They definitely have the fragrant smell of PR origin.
It’s good to see the PET’s web-to-print promo tactics — and I would be interested to know the conversion rate to free home delivery.
Onlooker (24/02/2010 11:45:28)
Ouch ! Wouldn’t want to be the person in charge of those appalling business pages. P45 anyone ?
Hilary (24/02/2010 11:50:19)
There are two kinds of business coverage – the properly resourced one with two or three dedicated reporters and a business editor with imagination and the time to probe,investigate and report authoritatively and in depth; and the one with one man with more commercial nous and interest than the rest of the reporting team allowed a day a week to fill an eight-page weekly supplement, while also filling a biz page a day AND doing general reporting because there aren’t enough staff. Proper biz news coverage goes out of the window and in come the press releases. An impossible job, otherwise.
In the latter case shortsighted management also squeeze ad sales resources and when no space is sold, they say there’s no money in it. Proper ad sales in business is a slow, diplomatic, high-level procedure, a million miles from flogging a quarter-page to Fred Bloggs discount carpets.
Proper biz coverage requires resources. Come to think of it, proper anything requires resources.
Steve Dyson (24/02/2010 11:59:31)
Thanks for the comments… Just wanted to say that I think the one from ‘Onlooker’ is a little too harsh (or perhaps just mischevious?). I think there were stories in the biz section, just badly nosed. Nothing that a bit of hard-desking wouldn’t sort… or prehaps just a nudge. Sometimes folk just need to know that someone at a desk level is noticing what they produce, and that alone keeps them on toes.
hilary (24/02/2010 14:02:39)
Mischievous, Dyson, not mischevious. Ooh, I do love correcting a boss-type person!
Steve Dyson (24/02/2010 14:15:51)
Nice one Hilary! I need a slap over ‘prehaps’ as well! Butter fnigers, eh?
BobbyH (24/02/2010 16:23:02)
The brand confusion is an important point which I hope someone picks up. The last thi
ng you want is confused readers. That said, top marks for the online x-reffing to print. Is it a Johnston animal? If so, hopefully their other sites will pick this up (if they are not already doing it).
Nikki Kelly (24/02/2010 16:24:16)
@Mr Dyson. Great blog. Love your comments and the constructive criticism. It’s great advice for those of us who want to be editors before this business collapses all together. Have you ever thought about teaching?
Paul (25/02/2010 11:55:37)
Yes, I was referring to the business stories. Even if they only have a one-man team, you could at least re-write the press release to make some sort of sense, or is this yet another business supplement which panders simply to extra ad revenue without adding anything to the editorial content of the paper?
Alan (25/02/2010 16:12:19)
Dont we need to move on a bit ……are readers just not fed up with yet another death on the road ‘horror’ story’. Funnily no one has mentioned the slightly odd looking cover pic. Funnily we live in a visual world and theres no mention of pics……..
Steve Dyson (25/02/2010 18:47:09)
It was a different pic, Alan. Half cut off by my scan were three teenagers pictured looking glum at a bus stop (I mentioned their Facebook campaign against bus cuts). Unusual but it worked for me with its headline write-off because it had me wanting to find out what 3x 17-year-olds were doing. And it was much better than the probable alternative of a scene shot from the A1 death (which was on p2). Good point about pix… I’ll try to squeeze a point in in future. Re your crash horror point, I disagree. In the Peterborough area this was pretty rare, with a local man in court, full details, etc. Thanks for input though. S
James (01/03/2010 13:05:47)
Agree Alan. That front page is a massive turn off for me. There are a lot of lazy assumptions made about local papers and what local people want to read. This endless diet of doom and gloom! We must move on.