I laughed out loud at the blog by ex-Swindon Advertiser editor Dave King, reported by HTFP earlier this week.
Not just at the self-deprecating accuracy of his “toilet roll” description of how an editor sometimes feels, but also at the warm reference to his team of journalists.
"An incredible Addams Family set of characters… my day often depended on their whims and moods," King lamented.
Yes, we are an odd bunch, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one chuckling at the Addams Family members we’ve met across the industry in the last 20-odd years. Imagine former Newcastle Chronicle editor Alison Hastings as Morticia, soon-to-be-departing Teesside chief photographer Doug Moody as Lurch and Hull Daily Mail editor John Meehan as Uncle Fester and I think you’ll see what I mean.
King’s full blog is worth reading not only to put his playful comments into context but also to see from his 27 June posting that his reported “family reasons” for leaving Swindon are a lot more pertinent than many of us have to deal with.
And while his family must understandably have been a pull, the real truth according to Advertiser insiders was that King “resigned on principle” because he disagreed with the strategy of moving production to Oxford and the resulting bleed of experienced, quality staff.
‘WOMAN KILLED IN CAR SMASH ON DANGER ROAD’ was the splash on Wednesday 15 June, with strong boost headlines ‘SCHOOL’S TRIBUTE TO TRAGIC PUPIL’ and ‘JOBS TO GO AT SWINDON COLLEGE’.
My only quibble was with the need to write off such a story on page one when it appeared in full overleaf anyway. What’s wrong with turning the story and taking readers with you on a cliff-hanging paragraph?
The school tribute was another example of the Advertiser being switched on to breaking news, a letter to parents on the Monday about the tragedy becoming the ‘PUPILS SHOCKED BY SUDDEN DEATH’ page five lead by Wednesday.
As for the college redundancies, I liked the way the Advertiser used a smiling stock picture of the principal with the ‘COLLEGE PREPARES TO MAKE JOB CUTS’ story on page seven.
This once again underlines the reason for going to all official picture opportunities of self-satisfied folk in power. Those straight up and down “say cheese” shots almost always become really useful years later.
All three were smack-in-the-face stories told straight, with little worry about light and shade on the important page one shop window that needs to sell hard news the way readers want it.
The Advertiser team was careful to inject a little humour and achievement inside with the picture-lead ‘WHOOPS! COUNCIL FELLS WRONG TREE’ on page three and a lovely snap of 17 adults and children headlined ‘Staff give pre-school playground a fresh new look’ on page six.
The first referred to an in-depth interview with Wootton Bassett Town boss Chris Jones, frustrated at relegation from the Hellenic League Premier Division because of perceived ground deficiencies.
The latter was a lovely history piece reflecting on the life and career of Bert Trautmann, triggered by a local who collects signatures of goalies on an old-fashioned ‘caser’ football.
In a 36-page main book, the Advertiser had a slightly below-par score of 86 reports on 20 news and features pages, another 17 stories on five pages of sport, a spread of TV listings and a puzzles page.
But the Wednesday edition was made well worth the 40p cover price by doubling in size with a 36-page ‘THE HOME’ property section.
Published by Newsquest, the Swindon Advertiser sold an average of 18,287 a day in 2010 according to the latest ABCs, down -8.0 pc on 2009.
It would be interesting to know how much of this is down to the recession and accompanying cost-cuts which inevitably lead to editors taking their eyes off the ball.
For the record, the Advertiser put on sales in King’s first year in charge, recording a small but significant +0.4 pc in 2007, and was then one of the top ten daily performers in 2008 and 2009 with -5.0 pc and -4.7 pc falls respectively.
In the declining period the industry has been through, those are figures to die for. My money is on King landing a top job somewhere progressive in the near future.