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Weekly uses internet to keep tabs on national breaking story

A south-east weekly used the flexibility of the web to keep readers updated on a national breaking story.

The Isle of Thanet Extra, part of the Kent Messenger Group, has been updating readers via its digital arm about the Margate house where the remains of Vicky Hamilton and Dinah McNicol were found.

By contrast its local rivals – The Thanet Times and the Isle of Thanet Gazette – are relying on their print editions to keep locals informed.

Peter Barnett, chief reporter at the Extra, said they had adopted a very local take for their coverage in this week’s paper, out yesterday.

“We have been working from an internet viewpoint,” he said.

“We have been covering and watching developments hour by hour through the evenings and at the weekend, approaching it from a multimedia angle.

“It has been changing hour by hour, particularly on Friday and Saturday.

“Normally, if you are working for a weekly, you’re keeping tabs on things and doing pre-planning.

“But with this, we were changing our online service all the time.

“But there comes a point where you have to take stock of where you are in terms of your deadline. That’s when you have to say which angle you’re going from.

“I am mindful of what appears on the website. You’re thinking about new angle but that’s quite good as it keeps you on your toes.”

The story features in print on the front page and pages two, three and four.

“The angle as far as Peter Tobin is concerned is a legal situation.

“We’re not approaching it the way the national media are but the way the regional media do.

“We had Dinah’s father down here and the people who lived in the property and doing it very much from a local angle such as talking to the vicar.”

Rebecca Smith is editor of Northcliffe’s paid-for Thanet Times and Isle of Thanet Gazette as well as the company’s free sheet the Thanet Adscene.

She said their website was only uploaded with stories after they had appeared in print so the paper focused its content on local news, analysis and debate.

“It has been quite tricky to actually break news about it,” she said.

“He (Peter Tobin) was not local so there’s not been a rash of people coming out of the woodwork.

“So we have looked at the impact on the local community with the world and his wife descending on what is already a troubled area.

“People there feel they are never in the media spotlight for anything good – it’s always issues of deprivation and anti-social behaviour.

“We have obviously been focusing on people living in the local area and how they have been reacting to it.

“We had the statement of the people living there which was our line on Tuesday in the Thanet Times.

“On Friday in the Gazette we will be going forward with the line of what happens to the house.

“The police are packing up and shipping out on Friday which leaves a house with no one in it.

“It’s privately owned and we’re looking into whether there’s been a precedent where the owners have been compensated.

“We will be seeing whether there’s a future for the house as a home on Friday.” Do you have a story about the regional press?
Ring 0116 227 3122/3121, or e-mail:
patrick.astill@and.co.uk