I reckon the best potential splash in the Bridport News on Wednesday 13 June 2012 was hidden away in this ‘Family Announcements’ advert on page 60.
There was certainly nothing else in that week’s paper that would have beaten an interview with the relatives of Mark Sambles, the town’s only man to be killed in action in the Falklands War exactly 30 years ago.
Mark had been a Leading Cook on HMS Glamorgan, and was one of 13 servicemen killed when the ship was hit by an Exocet missile on 12 June 1982 – just two days before the Argentine forces surrendered.
An interview with any of his six siblings, his son, or even his mum if she was up to it, would have been a compelling read: their thoughts 30 years on; memories of Mark; thoughts on Argentina’s renewed claims over the islands; and whether they felt the war’s victims had been forgotten.
And just think of all the pictures that could have gone with such a newsworthy page one and emotive double-page spread: snapshots of Mark; his family gathered together; archive photos from the war; war memorials; and HMS Glamorgan itself.
This may not have been easy, of course. Although the ‘In Memorium’ advert reads like one from a family willing to be interviewed, for all I know the Bridport News may have contacted them and been politely turned down.
But even if that was the case, there would surely have been no reason not to run a decent package anyway, with potential quotes from Mark’s former schoolmates, or from members of the local Sea Scouts he was once a part of , or with members of the HMS Glamorgan Association, which actively remembers those who died.
Again, I don’t know for sure that such efforts weren’t made, nor whether there was good reason for all them not to succeed; but I do know that the lonely advert on page 60 placed by a still-grieving family brought a few questions to my mind.
Had the Bridport News known about and considered the anniversary of Mark’s death as a potential story?
Does the editorial team have a good relationship with the front counter or classified ads department, making sure they are alerted of such newsworthy BMDs?
Do newsrooms these days still use a ‘bring forward’ diary to remind them about significant anniversaries?
If such a diary was in existence, surely it would have contained the Bridport News’ own cutting from 18 June 1982, when they interviewed Mrs Jean Sambles less than a week after her son’s death.
Back then, her chilling quotes read: “I am proud of my son – but not proud of the fact that he died for his country in a war that was not necessary. I accept that it is a serviceman’s duty to fight. But in a futile situation like this, I think it’s evil to put men’s lives at risk when negotiations around a table can save so much heartbreak.”
Strong comments, and surely worthwhile revisiting three decades later, but there was no story anywhere in the 13 June edition, nor in the weeks either side of this landmark date according to my search of the Bridport News website, which publishes every major story from the print edition.
Away from what might have been a missed splash, how else did the Newsquest-owned Bridport News perform for its 8,940 readers who each spend 40p a week for their news in the small West Dorset town?
The page one story was good enough, with ‘Reckless’ as the banner headline on what must be a recurring challenge for police and coastguards to prevent daredevil teenagers venturing along the town’s pier during storms.
There were a couple of notable leads highlighting local council decisions: ‘Concerns over cuts to day care centre’ on page two and ‘St Michael’s plans face hammer blow’ on page four.
And there were various local crime stories, community events, school reports, two detailed 100th birthday tales, a celebrity visit by ex-ITN legend Sandy Gall and a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee picture spread.
In a 64-page paper, there was a healthy total of 185 stories on 36 news and features pages, with an additional 24 reports on four sports pages.
Yet despite this solid enough diet of general reportage, the Bridport News lacked a gripping human tale, and I was left feeling that one seemingly proffering itself might have been forgotten.