I picked up the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard at the beginning of November, and earlier this month drafted my review that was scheduled for today.
So you can imagine my surprise when news broke on Monday that the paper’s editor, Skip Walker, had been axed in the latest shake-up by Newsquest, the Standard’s publishers. Here’s how my review came out – before I had any idea that Skip was going…
‘Mamma and Mia at match’ read the weekly’s front page picture headline on 30 October 2014, above a grainy snap of a mum and baby seemingly cheering someone from the side of a sports pitch.
The caption quickly told me that this was Zara Phillips and her daughter Mia, supporting dad Mike Tindall, the ex-England rugby star, as he played his first match for his local side, Minchinhampton RFC.
That simple little headline was nicely evocative of Abba’s song and musical, and yet it was also accurate, the caption then carefully cross-referencing readers to the back page where Tindall was pictured in the thick of the action.
The Tindalls, I understand, live on grandma Princess Anne’s nearby Gatcombe Park estate, making them very much a part of the local Gloucestershire scene – and therefore of interest to the Standard’s readers.
Showing the royal family going about such ‘normal’ life is just the kind of subject that would have been a good talking point, with the paper the reference for all those conversations.
Meanwhile, ‘Youngsters lucky after bus hit by branch’ was the paper’s main front page headline and, while the strictest subs might cringe at the shy fourth line and the descending ‘y’ running into the ascending ‘h’, it was both active and dramatic.
The splash itself was a good story, with plenty of depth provided by the naming of the school and pupils involved, and full responses from the local council.
On the inside pages, several detailed grassroots campaigns and decent crime stories caught my eye, broken up nicely with bright community reports, including:
- ‘Plea for witnesses after ATM is stolen’ leading page two;
- ‘Foodbank delighted with bumper schools donation’ leading page four;
- ‘Plans for junction rouse opposition’ leading page five;
- ‘Thousands flock to historic horse fair and markets’ leading page seven;
- ‘Residents question promised bus route’ leading page nine; and
- ‘£23,000 in fines issued to lorry drivers in five days’ leading page 15.
Deeper in the book, there were four ‘Community news’ pages packed with stories, including an unusual report from the Soroptimist Club on page 24 headlined ‘Club continues fight against slavery’, carrying a picture of the club’s president chained to a local church door for a day.
The Standard displayed another simple but effective way to bring its community pages alive by using pictures of happy couples from recent weddings – a traditional practice that seems to be dying out in too many local papers.
It was refreshing to see a Newsquest paper with such passion evident in its detailed content, and so hats off to editor Skip Walker and her team.
On 30 October, the 80-page Standard carried a commendable 244 stories on 46 pages of news, features and sport, and it sold an average of 9,321 copies a week throughout 2013 – every single one of them at the full cover price of £1.