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Dyson at Large: Gripping weekly pulls no punches

When you flick open a weekly newspaper to find this sort of headline on page 16, you know you are in for a treat: ‘Murder pair stabbed victim 23 times’.

Not that I particularly enjoy reading of violence, but I was thrilled at how hard news just flowed out of the Hamilton Advertiser like the River Clyde.

‘COUNCIL LOSE £102k TO AFRICAN CONMEN’ was the screamer on page one on 23 September, a fascinating 27-pars turning to page six with full detail on an embarrassing blooper by South Lanarkshire Council.

Changing to upper and lower headlines inside, ’12 cars damaged in dawn paint stripper attacks’ was the page three lead, the reporter cramming every cough and spit of street locations, exact vehicle types, victims with names, ages and full quotes into 31 pars.

The gritty headlines, sub-headings and noses to picture captions felt very much like a trained sub had laid out the pages, with the page six picture lead a good example.

‘Flippin’ heck!’ ran the two-word headline above a snap of an upside-down Vauxhall Astra; ‘Car rolls down garden slope and ends up jammed against front door’, read the sub-heading; with the nice touch of ‘Just dropping by’ in bold introducing the caption that told how a pensioner had flipped the car into her neighbour’s garden.

Other compelling reads included: ‘Capital stag party turns ugly for father and son’ on page 10; ‘Man threw fire bomb at police station’ on page 15; and ‘Family escape injury in bridge brick attack’ on page 44.

This was a gripping snapshot of life in urban Scotland, but I’d be doing Advertiser editor John Rowbotham an injustice if I made his paper sound like a penny-dreadful.

Because strong lighteners were neatly slipped in throughout as well, starting with a great picture package on page five headlined ‘Blessed by Benedict’.

This featured the story behind wee Hamilton miracle baby Sophia, who we all remember seeing on TV news bulletins when she was plucked from the crowd during the Papal mass at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow.

Other picture-led news to make you smile included: ‘First class’, with a total of 16 kiddies smartly dressed in uniform starting school on page 25; and a picture spread on a 6km charity road race containing 14 group shots with more than 200 identifiable faces on pages 30 and 31.

There was room found for joyous celebrations too, and I particularly liked the 26-par story headlined ‘Whirlwind romance led to wedded bliss’ on page 43.

“What, that much copy on an everyday Golden Wedding?” I hear cynics ask.

Not at all, because as anyone who’s covered real people knows, there’s a great story in every such event, this diligent reporter discovering the determined community spirit of Iris and Albert Heasman.

“A High Blantyre couple who were once renowned for throwing their beautiful garden open to the public to raise cash for charity have just celebrated 50 years of wedded bliss,” read the intro, the full report describing their exciting romance, jobs abroad, loving family life and generosity to others.

In all, there were 177 stories and countless listings on 55 news pages in the Advertiser, with a total of 140 pictures; seven pages of sport added another 48 tales and 16 pictures in an impressive 104-page paper.

Not that that I didn’t have a few issues with the Advertiser…

I disliked the brown-orange tint behind the masthead, which I can only hope was a one-off linked to the earpiece advert, given that it looks much cleaner on a white background online.

And I groaned at the horribly violet wash over the copy on the ‘Lanarkshire Live’ spread on pages 48 and 49 which, if a regular design colour, I’d advise is dropped immediately.

Despite excellent headlines, the lay-out was sometimes clunky, with random boxes for nibs and shorts creating a student magazine effect.

And an L-shaped ‘Letters extra’ section on page 28 caused confusion, given that the main letters page didn’t appear until page 46.

There were also annoying stop-start Classified sections with repeating categories, for instance a ‘Lanarkshire Home Improvements’ spread of ads on page 35 and 36, then another spread of similar trades and service on pages 94 and 95.

But as many have said before, content is king, and if I lived on the Hamilton Advertiser’s patch I would happily shell out my 88p a week just to make sure I didn’t miss out on all the action.

Published by Trinity Mirror, the Hamilton Advertiser (Series) sells 20,181 a week according to the latest ABCs, down -6.7pc on 2009.

  • Sex-ad rating: ten out of ten. Encouragingly, there were none to be seen. Long may this continue.

    Read Steve’s previous blog posts here

  • Steve Dyson worked in the regional press for 20 years, editing weekly, Sunday and daily newspapers in the North East and the Midlands from 2002 until the end of 2009. To contact him, email [email protected].

    Steve’s blog is available via an RSS feed. Click here to subscribe.


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    • October 13, 2010 at 11:58 am

      yes, great story but what about the glaring style error in the screamer headline? The council is a singular institution and should take the appropriate verb. Or is this another newspaper that doesn’t bother with a house style?

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    • October 13, 2010 at 12:21 pm

      Not necessarily a style error. If that’s the consistent way it’s done throughout the paper, then the headline will be correct. Grammatically, council can be singular or plural, as long as whichever one is chosen is consistently used.

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    • October 13, 2010 at 12:40 pm

      Hannah…I can confirm the house style at this particular stable council are plural…..although I much prefer the singular option. You can always count on plenty blood and guts in Hamilton though.

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