As a newspaper lover, broadsheets can be such fun – losing yourself inside the rustle and crunch of huge pages that seem determined to fall apart however hard you try to turn them neatly.
But after 30 minutes of grappling with the Surrey Advertiser on Friday 4 January, I was somewhat disappointed with the volume of copy.
There were only 65 stories on 13 news pages in the main book – or, at best, 84 if you included 14 items on the letters page and five more in the kids’ corner. And there were just 18 reports on four sports pages.
That’s fairly skinny for a 70p cover price; but what about the quality of the stories themselves?
In fairness, the Advertiser team did a pretty good job of covering the Queen’s New Year’s honours, and it was nice to see that they highlighted real people first.
A British Empire Medal for local volunteer fundraiser Shirley West made page one, whereas bigger gongs for celebs like Sebastian Coe and Andy Murray, who just happen to live in Surrey, had to wait until page five.
Other decent, readable local honours reports included ‘Churchill war secretary’s MBE for work with elderly’, ‘Headteacher’s utter surprise at her new year honour’ and ‘Long-serving police officer dedicates BEM to her late husband’.
But I felt the Advertiser’s splash was a little weak, the headline ‘Guildford weathers the storm’ giving would-be readers no idea what this story was about, (survey findings that the town was the third best place in the country to look for a job).
Much more gripping was the page one anchor, ‘University club altercation ended with stiletto injury’, a court report that just begged to be read.
And I always like to see the old favourite subject of New Year’s Day babies exploited – indeed, given the popularity of Channel 4’s ‘One born every minute’, perhaps regionals ought to make more of new babies every week.
Inside, non-honours page leads included ‘New lease of life for site of air raid shelter’ on page two, ‘Firefighters face injuries at workplace’ on page three, ‘Primary school education must focus on getting back to basics’ on page four and ‘Please recycle your rubbish say councils’ on page nine.
All very worthy stuff, I’m sure, but these headlines were indicative of the lack of hard news in that week’s Advertiser.
The above-mentioned stiletto attack was one of only two court reports, the other a short remand, and the nearest to a crime story was ‘Enthusiastic interest in PCC meetings’ down-page on page nine, relating to the new Police and Crime Commissioner.
The highest-profile political tale, meanwhile, was a second lead headlined ‘Guildford road jams will never go away, says council leader’ on page two, which failed to get my juices going.
This paucity of content may have been due to the tail-end of the festive season, of course, although I can’t really believe there weren’t more real-life dramas and political intrigues in Surrey to report on.
As and when the news agenda improves, I do hope that better use is made of the Advertiser’s broadsheet size to increase what was a pretty feeble story count.
Turning to sport, the 18 reports I mentioned were all on the back page and page 27, with the spread on pages 28 and 29 devoted to 23 pictures from Woking’s 3-1 victory over Luton Town in the Blue Square Premier.
I was impressed with this clever use of picture resource, which included 14 close up shots of the crowd, the recognisable groups of fans making it a must-look spread for anyone at the game.
Also worth mentioning was the 28-page ‘What’s On’ tabloid pull-out, containing all that week’s local entertainment, TV listings and a puzzles page, a ‘worth-keeping’ section that provided real value for readers.