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Striking use of images

One example of a dramatic front page picture from the Western Morning News – this one concerning the plight of Dartmoor ponies

Open any edition of the Western Morning News, and you can’t fail to be impressed by the striking use of images.

Unusual news and feature pictures are used boldly and to great effect along with colourful, dramatic landscapes.

When the paper changed from broadsheet to tabloid format in 1997, editor Barrie Williams said the use of pictures was a deliberate part of the strategy. A year before the re-launch Mr Williams had moved from another Northcliffe title – the Nottingham Evening Post. Since his arrival at the Morning News, he has overseen six consecutive circulations increases in the newspaper’s ABC figures – with the paper currently well on course for a seventh.

One unusual aspect of the Western Morning News picture department is that most of the photographers are freelance.

“Our patch stretches from Taunton to the Isles of Scilly. It would take seven hours to drive from one side to the other, so it’s just not practical to employ staff photographers,” said Mr Williams.

He admits he is fortunate to have the photography team led by the “very talented” ex-Sunday Times photographer Michael Cranmer. He is one of just four members of the photographic staff based at the paper’s Plymouth head office.

Apart from using quality images in its news and feature coverage, the Morning News also devotes half a page a day to a quality colour landscape shot taken by an amateur or professional photographer.

Called, the Western Morning View, it is such a popular feature that the newspaper has produced two hard-backed books of the collected pictures which have both sold out.

Mr Williams said: “The quality of those Western Morning View pictures is amazing. When we had a launch party for one of the books, it was interesting to see the wide range of people who had contributed photographs. They ranged in age from 15 to 80.”

On the paper’s general picture strategy, Mr Williams said: “When the newspaper drops on the mat, we want readers to pick it up and be reminded what a great place this is to live.

“Another important target audience for our paper are the ‘incomers’, people who have moved down to the West Country, and we see it as our job to assure them: ‘You’ve made the right decision to move here’.

“Of course you can’t turn a corner in this part of the world without coming across another stunning view, which does help,” said Mr Williams.

Television audiences in Carlton’s West Country region can find out more about the photographers who work for the Western Morning News in a six-part TV documentary which began on April 4.

Called Hold The Front Page, although there is no connection with this website, it will be screened from 7.30-8pm each Tuesday.

The programme was made by Plymouth-based Denham Productions and filming spanned almost a year.

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