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Dyson at Large: Notorious local criminals sell papers

I’d already bought an armful of papers from a newsagent on Merseyside (see my last blog), but just couldn’t resist one more when I spotted this headline.

‘Another Gelling is sent to prison’ was the top nib on the front of the Southport Visiter on 25 July, the tone indicating the sort of notoriety that was worth reading.

Ashley Gelling, 23, has been jailed for two years for a mugging – after a string of previous convictions that included three robberies, three attempted robberies, assaults and burglaries.

The case, the Visiter told us, followed the jailing of his brothers in recent years: James Gelling received 18 months for attacking at ex-girlfriend in 2012, while Jordan Gelling got four years after raiding a newsagent in 2011.

The court heard that the Gellings had a “bad name” in Southport, and I was pleased to see that reporter Gary Stewart had been given the time to cover this important story properly.

Readers are always satisfied to see such local justice recorded in detail, and the extra recall was a sound piece of journalism.

Personally, I’d have splashed on this court report, although the ‘Primary schools face crisis on places’ arguably attracted a wider reader interest.

You’ll see from the ‘days out’ boosts that the Visiter is related to the Advertiser weeklies I covered last time – all are Trinity Mirror papers that use the same designs and typology.

But save for a couple of stories with relevant local lines that made them worthy of sharing, the majority of content was the Visiter’s own, the best including:

  • ‘Schools set to enrol two-year-old pupils’ leading page two;
  • ‘Hunt for the cigarette smash and grab gangs’ leading page seven;
  • ‘We’re fed up with abuse from Orange Lodge marchers’ leading page eight;
  • ‘Tribute to cabbie Alex Crane, 43’ leading page 11;
  • ‘Protest over breastfeeding’ leading page 23 – reporting a mass breast-feed at a local branch of Kiddicare; and
  • ‘Joan’s broken heart’ leading page 33 – a touching tale about a woman who died three weeks after the death of her husband, whom she’d married back in 1953.

I also loved ‘Delivering Visiter gets me out of bed’ on page 16, reporting on the paper’s oldest paperboy, aged 72 (also boosted on page one); and there was a fascinating ‘Nostalgia’ spread looking at the history of cinemas in Southport on pages 36 and 37.

But one section that had me a little worried was ‘Business News’ on pages 34 and 35 where I spotted a ‘Sponsored by Southport College, written by Concept PR’ in the masthead.

Inevitably, one of the stories was about Southport College, and the main ‘Have you got a business story?’ come-on had Concept PR’s emails given as the place to send them – but then a second come-on gave the Visiter newsroom’s contact details.

I fully understand and accept that papers have to carry advertising features, but for me this was an uncomfortable, confusing combination that needed better separation of editorial and commercial, with clearer labelling.

That niggle aside, I liked the hard news feel of the Visiter – which like the Advertisers is overseen by executive editor Andrew Edwards.

And I was struck by its unusual variant spelling of ‘Visiter’ – can anyone shed light on the reason behind using the ‘e’ instead of an ‘o’?

The paper, which now costs 80p, carried 140 stories on 45 editorial pages in an 80-page main book – I reckon this count should be 20pc higher – plus a 32-page ‘Property’ pull-out.

The Visiter sold an average of 8,758 in the last six months of 2012, when it cost 75p.

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  • September 3, 2013 at 11:32 am

    Good point re the sponsored business news section. I can see how it’s tempting for an over-worked newsroom to get a local PR firm to write the copy, in exchange for a plug, but it does make things a bit murky.

    Especially when you consider the PR firm are highly likely to be using the contact with the companies concerned to sell their services, presumably with promises of coverage in the Visiter thanks to their excellent relationship, etc etc.

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