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Victorian news values can save local newspapers, claims editor

A local editor has urged newspapers to go “back to basics” and use Victorian era publications as their models, claiming that Sun-style headlines and celebrity gossip have had their day.

Paul Holden, who runs the Worthing Journal, says that a return to “grassroots journalism” is the key to local newspapers’ survival.

Paul launched the Journal in January 2011, having previously worked for Brighton daily The Argus and edited the Worthing Sentinel.

His comments come as the Journal celebrates its biggest issue to date with a 128-page bumper edition, pictured below.


Said Paul: “To reach 128 pages is quite a milestone, and a huge amount of work, but it proves that printed publications still have a future so long as they remain at the heart of the communities they serve, and provide proper, grass roots journalism.

“If newspapers are to survive, they need to go back to basics and study publications from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, when, if the mayor sneezed, readers knew about it.”

He added: “Those still serving up a diet of 1980s Sun-style headlines and celebrity gossip dressed up as news have had their day.”

The Journal has campaigned on several issues to do with Worthing since its launch, including a 2013 guerrilla gardening raid on the seafront, led by Paul, which saw readers rip out weeds and replace them with colourful blooms.

Every year since the “raid” has been repeated, although now it has borough council backing and sponsorship from town centre traders.

Readers also this year donated flags worth £2,000 to decorate the town’s promenade and pier, taking the total donated, since 2002, when Paul ran the Sentinel, to £26,000.


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  • September 23, 2016 at 11:00 am

    Instead of looking back to a time when newspapers were the essential source of all news and local events Paul would be better served looking forward to how news is sought now and it’s not in weekly or ailing daily papers.
    the wholesale decimation of this country’s regional press by those in all groups desperate to keep hold of what eroding revenues from both readers and advertisers they had has resulted in sacrificing quality staff and content to reduce the losses on the bottom line but which in itself has further hastened its decline.

    The industry is on its knees and looking back isn’t the answer,staff have left to Persue ‘other interests'( and making a good living too from those in the east that I know of) theres an almost 100% reliance on free submitted content that a junior can then knock into shape,editors are a defunct species being moved aside in favour of ‘content Chiefs’ or the laughably titled ‘ curators’ the togs have been laid off and the best commercial people are now making good livings selling against their former employers in strong competitor publications that better serve their markets.

    So well done on your success paul but the industry hasn’t moved or embraced new news mediums overall and it’s complacency and greed has given us the industry we have today ,as everyone knows its merely managing decline until such time as it ceases to exists,which on the ongoing sales declined will be sooner rather than later

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  • September 23, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    South Side is sadly showing the complacency which has resulted in so many publications struggling

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  • September 23, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Read the post onlooker, it’s complacency and old thinking that’s resulted in the state the regionals are in, too many people happy to sit on the fence and watch bad decisions being made without challenge,taking the safe route because it’s always worked ” in the past”
    whilst I agree grass roots journalism is a key factor,it’s far too late for ‘grass roots’ journalism as the boards are not Interested, only in papers produced as cheaply as possible and aimed at the masses,hence they’ve lost their audiences and the quality ‘real’ grassroots journalists all left or treading water seeing out their days
    Harping back to the Victorian era is hardly the answer to 21st century news gathering,living in the past is pure complacency

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  • September 23, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    Punctuation is a virtue – and not just a Victorian one – SSJ, which underlines my complacency point!

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  • September 23, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Seems Johnnie south side has hit a nerve with the onlooker
    Oh to be pedantic when all about is crumbling

    That’s complacency

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  • September 26, 2016 at 4:27 am

    It’s too easy to simply knock Paul’s ethos as backward-looking – I agree with him. The huge number of job cuts in the industry has ended the era when reporters used to get out and about to source stories, and make sure readers knew everything important that was happening in their area.
    This is something that, if we’re honest, has dismayed all of us. Trying to turn local papers into profitable online enterprises (which they never will be) by using clickbait and focusing on celebrity stories that have no relevance to the local area is bound to fail.
    I believe there is an appetite for local news still, and if Paul can fill 128 pages of it then he deserves credit, not knee-jerk criticism. He’s obviously doing something right as far as the people of Worthing are concerned.

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  • September 26, 2016 at 8:13 am

    Pretty obvious. Give the punters local news and they will buy the newspaper. Alas, most of the idiots running our industry regard employing journalists as a waste of money and their words get in the way of the adverts!
    I would be more convinced by Paul’s views if the copy of the paper on display did not have one huge picture of nothing in particular as the front page. That sort of thinking is what has damaged local papers.

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  • September 26, 2016 at 11:30 am

    I agree with south side Johnny and old bill, we all know what’s wrong with the industry and what should have been done but we are where we are,the good old days are long gone and too much has happened to be able to halt the tide now
    Complacency in thinking free instant 24/7 digital news would be a passing fad so ignore it and it’ll go away, the sacrifice of local news and quality staff for the cheap and not so cheerful option and too many bad decisions for too long,unchallenged by those who were afraid to speak up have resulted in the death of a once thriving industry.
    And yes if the full page photo ( sid presumably?) is an example of this paper, they’ve done well to last so long.

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  • September 27, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Only last week I was commenting on another article about how editors insist on putting ‘bumper edition’ or the number of pages on the front. No one cares!

    People have long stopped caring about ‘if the mayor sneezed’. How many of your readers can even name their local county or city councillor, let alone their MP? They just don’t care unless it affects them and they’re not going to spend hours wading through 128 pages of ‘guerrilla gardening raids’ or ‘flag donations’ to, hopefully, spot the occasional snippet of any relevance.

    Smaller, high-quality, niche publications away from the clutches of regional publishers is the way forward for local news. Not one bumper 128-page jack-of-all-trades!

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  • September 30, 2016 at 12:24 am

    As someone who has just spent a while going over late 1800s articles from local press, I have to agree with Archie and Ollie. No one wants to know who was present at which tea party when or attendance lists of funerals. Not all is what it seems with the Journal in this article. From someone who lives in Worthing, if “grassroots journalism” means serving up a tirade of hatred for street drinkers, rough sleepers and the police, Paul is doing a very good job – his Worthing sheep lap it up and it sells. I don’t believe this is good old fashioned journalism nor healthy for the town. For all the good that encouraging flag donations and guerilla flower planting does, a biased and ugly attitude of one crusader to the very real social problems that exist in towns like Worthing is worrying. I ask Paul to be as proactive about seeking answers to these social issues (instead of calling on the police to remove people/hide them away) as he is about the aesthetics of the town. That would be how a benevolent/philanthropic Victorian would do it. Paul’s scaremongering and fuelling away in print and on social media grabs people hook, line and sinker. No better than 1980s Sun journalism I would say…

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