The Western Daily Press carried a good variety of page one content on Thursday 29 January, from politics and news to business and history, with a few slices of ‘extra value’ thrown in as well.
And while there were at least seven entry points for readers, the front’s conventional structure meant there was little chance of eyes going too astray, with the natural focus being the splash.
For those motivated by serious news, politics and business, this robust story reflected a growing push to de-select local Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, while a write-off teased an inside feature from Wells MP Tessa Munt on why she quit government, and the business boost highlighted a focus on the region’s top 150 companies.
For well-to-do older generations – and you’ve got to imagine this traditional regional morning has its fair share of those – the boost for a four-page ‘CHURCHILL REMEMBERED’ section was a convincing attraction, along with a picture recording Princess Anne’s visit to the region.
As for that ‘extra value’, what better than a ‘Free loaf of bread with this paper’ to persuade purchases from those in charge of providing staple diets within the household budget?
What seemed to be someone taking care of the mix continued on inside news pages, with modest-sized headlines and a six-column layout allowing for generously deep, analytical reads.
A prime example of this ‘give it space to breathe’ approach was the pages four and five spread on the Liddell-Grainger row: ‘Council has reached final straw with West MP’ headlined 18-pars completing the turn from page one; ‘Mixed views on moves to replace MP’ gave 19-pars of balanced views; and ‘District council’s motion against MP describes reasons behind drastic action’ provided 15-pars of detail.
All those words, along with a lead picture across the spread, three other medium-size pictures and two drop-ins, did not feel crammed despite a 25×3 display advert.
I’m told that editor Ian Mean – now in his 69th year and retiring this month – hardly uses a dozen staff to pull the Press together, harvesting much of its content from publisher Local World’s other titles across the region.
However uncomfortable we might feel about the lack of staff, this overview of a wide circulation area meant that decent content was used from all corners, other strong news stories including:
- ‘Young mum reunited with kind stranger’ on page seven, some great pictures helping to tell how Samantha Walsh, from Plymouth, was able to thank a fellow rail passenger, from Wiltshire, who’d secretly slipped her £5 because he was impressed with her parenting;
- ‘40 years of animal mania for keeper’ on page nine, which I know for a fact was taken from the same day’s Bristol Post, as I mentioned it in my blog on that paper earlier this month; and
- ‘Petition for head to return’ on page 10, a fascinating tale about hundreds of parents calling for the reinstatement of a Wiltshire school boss after his assault case was dropped.
The leader section design on pages 18 to 21 was impressive: the paper’s own editorial was placed with down-page restraint on a left-hander, the right hand lead was the above-mentioned, first-person resignation piece from Tessa Munt, followed by a mix of lengthy letters on substantial subjects and decent readers’ pictures, and an entertaining right-hand column by Rob Campbell.
In sport, the main back page picture was Tottenham players celebrating their League Cup semi-final victory against Sheffield United, with a full match report on page 43.
I always think it’s a touch of class when a respected regional simply selects the biggest national sport story and displays it well, unashamed of where the teams are from.
This still left room for a good back-splash on Bristol Rugby telling a wayward player to stay away from training, and a second lead on a new loan deal for a Bristol City striker.
Other sports pages covered cricket, horse racing, golf, tennis and more football and rugby – and again the Press displayed wisdom with its choice of the best national, international and regional stories.
There was a story count of 195 on 39 editorial pages in a 44-page main book, plus a 12-page ‘Business’ pull-out containing that list of 150 top companies’ financial statistics, which felt worthy of the 70p cover price, especially given the length of the reads.
The Western Daily Press was selling 21,783 a day in the latest ABC figures that I could find, which was for the second half of 2013.