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Dyson at Large: How ‘Gotcha’ can still work for print

Don’t you just love the occasional eye-catching, single-word splash headline?

I know, I know … we need to concentrate on proper nouns to enhance search engine optimisation, especially when there’s not always enough resource to rewrite headlines for print.

And no-one wants to see single words in huge point size on the front of their local paper every week.

But sometimes there’s nothing better to give a story impact than selecting the best superlative from a well-sourced quote and to just run with it.

That’s exactly what the Louth Leader did on 29 July with …


… then taking care to explain the story in the sub-header:

College switch from Mablethorpe to Louth would be a hammer blow says former mayor

Louth Leader page one

For me, this planning story might have struggled to feel like a splash if it had relied on its tongue-twisting introduction:

“A controversial decision to shut the Monks Tyke Tennyson College campus in Mablethorpe and transfer all lessons to the Louth site would have a ‘devastating effect’ in the seaside town.”

By lifting that emotive word ‘devastating’ to head the page, the splash sub (do they still exist?) gave the report a must-read quality, and then more welly was added by the fact the objection came from a former mayor of the council.

To be critical, I think the package could have been easily improved with a good picture of Coun Tony Howard alongside the shot of external buildings, and as an ex-mayor there would have been plenty of him to choose from stock.

But the rest of the Leader’s page one was pleasingly simple and enticing: ‘Top post for MP Victoria’ would have been of interest to those who recently elected Ms Atkins with a record majority; and ‘District council to investigate missing flood marker’ had all the makings of a rural detective story.

Unfortunately, the above three stories aside, too many of the inside pages failed to keep my attention, a selection of early leads including:

  • ‘We are on the superfast highway’ on page three;
  • ‘Diamond award for local super slimmers’ on page six;
  • ‘Team effort as North Thoresby gains play area’ on page seven;
  • ‘New restaurant hopes to provide the missing link’ on page eight; and
  • ‘Cool £2,000 raised for cancer charity’ on page nine.

Good community stories are crucial, of course, but it’s ideal to have at least a few hard news stories sprinkled among them.

The first nine pages carried hardly any, bar the ‘missing flood marker’ which led page five, and a dull two-par court brief on page two.

To be fair, one of my favourite ‘Court listings’ sections adorned page 10, and this carried four quite lengthy and interesting cases from local magistrates courts.

But from then on it was features, district news, nostalgia, puzzles and listings with no more news, and this felt too light, too soon for me.

The Leader, acquired by Johnston Press just before the last recession from the independent Mortons Media Ltd, carried not one story from the police, fire or ambulance services, which felt as if reporters weren’t making those all-important calls.

There’s a stiffer frown for the overall story-count: just 84 reads on 27 editorial pages in an 88-page paper, and that included news, features and sport, which is pretty poor value for an 80p cover price.

To summarise: an impressive ‘Gotcha’ start but with far too little inside depth for the Louth Leader, which was selling 7,183 copies a week when last audited in 2012.


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  • August 12, 2015 at 9:25 am

    So no attacks on the Newport subbing hub this week – what’s going on, Steve? Maybe it’s time you redressed the balance by having a go at a paper subbed by the Weymouth hub.
    ‘Devastated’ – bit of a cliche isn’t it and on such a boring story. Surely ‘devastated’ is the kind of word you use on a story where there’s some loss of life involved.

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  • August 12, 2015 at 9:52 am

    Re: the inside page headlines. What Steve forgets to realise, or at least mention, is that naff all happens in this part of the world.

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  • August 12, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Totally agree about the impact of the one word shocker. (I never thought it had gone out of fashion, anyway). But not on a story like this. It is a sub’s tool that needs to be saved for the BIG occasion.

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  • August 12, 2015 at 10:46 am

    I agree with Journo watch: an earthquake or tsunami is devastating – a college switch merely annoying. What will the Louth Leader carry as a splash headline if it ever has anything really serious to report? Come to think about it, not a likely eventuality if you know anything about Louth.

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  • August 12, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    Devastating. How about lazy?
    Wasted on a story that is so dull from the first line.
    Must have been a deadly news time for them.

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  • August 12, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    Everybody’s devastated about something these days – your dog runs off, your shoelace breaks, the milk doesn’t turn up – you’re devastated. It’s an overused word for trivial occasions. This is one of them.

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  • August 12, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    As a former resident, this is a big story for the community. Unfortunately, no one has noticed the newspaper has got the name of the school wrong in the introduction. It’s actually Monks Dyke, not Tyke.

    It’s a shame but hopefully down to human error, not a lack of staff and local knowledge.

    This paper used to have a team of subs, photographer, editorial assistant, someone to key in village news, four reporters and an editor, as well as a managing editor overseeing several titles.

    It now has a fraction of the staff, and like many local papers, is run by an editor who is also in charge of other titles.

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