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Higgerson hits back at journalist’s ‘trivial clickbait’ jibe

graham-smith-cornwallA regional digital chief has hit back at a former journalist for one of his company’s newspapers who claimed he was being asked to write “trivial clickbait”.

As reported on Wednesday, former Cornish Guardian journalist Graham Smith, left, has launched his own “proper news” website Cornwall Reports in opposition to Trinity Mirror’s Cornwall Live platform – which serves as the online arm for the Guardian, The Cornishman and the West Briton.

Graham says he is aiming his new venture at people “interested in what’s going on and not interested in who are the 50 sexiest people in Cornwall.”

But David Higgerson, digital publishing director for TM’s regional titles, has accused Graham of seeking to paint “a very inaccurate picture of the work done by fellow journalists” in explaining his reasoning for launching the site.

Writing on his personal blog, David responded: “It’s dead easy to pick one story you don’t like and pretend it’s the norm. Academics do it all the time. Smith has found a handful he doesn’t like and worked very hard to suggest that’s the norm, being written at the expense of all else.”

David shared a list of Cornwall Live’s most shared stories from the past few weeks, which features local crime, transport, health and weather stories as well as the “50 sexiest people in Cornwall” list.

He wrote: “There are council stories in there. Health stories in there. Issues, campaigns, human interest – but all prepared in a way which makes people want to read them online. Seeking to write stuff which is going to be read is not something journalists should sneer at, surely.

“The popular content – designed to engage, catch the eye and satisfy the reader – helps fund the content which takes longer to produce, but which can have just as much impact on the lives of readers as the stuff readers know they need.”

David added: “Local journalism faces a challenging time. Journalists hurling insults about the quality of work undertaken by their professional colleagues and seeking to undermine it to others in their communities seems to be an unnecessary pursuit when so make other things need solving and resolving.

“I hope Graham Smith’s new website works, and that a new journalism revenue model is proven. I’m sure it stands far more chance of success if it’s promoted on its strengths, rather than the inaccurate portrayal of what hard-working journalists at a rapidly-growing website down the road are up to.”

Graham commented: “There is much in David Higgerson’s blog that I agree with, particularly his recognition that readers have a real appetite for local news.  I now look forward to seeing much more local news on Trinity Mirror websites.

“But David is misleading when he suggests that I am criticising my former colleagues.  I am not.  They are my friends and I suspect that I know them rather better than David does.  That’s how I know why so many senior journalists have left the company, and why those who remain would also leave tomorrow if they could.”


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  • January 16, 2017 at 11:16 am

    sorry to be pedantic but a publishing editor really should get his grammar correct. ” to write stuff (sic) WHICH is going to be read should be THAT is going to be read. Common mistake but he has a point. Plenty of proper news on the web, alongside the useless trivia which is demanded from journalists.

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  • January 16, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    One issue here is that if you ask for the official line on this, they will say it’s digital innovation, responding to a modern world etc.

    If you speak to people privately, to a man or woman they say they are embarrassed by gathering round screens watching clicks.

    Take your pick!

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  • January 16, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Says Graham: “… That’s how I know why so many senior journalists have left the company, and why those who remain would also leave tomorrow if they could.”

    Forgive me, but the last time I looked, Trinity Mirror wasn’t a penal colony.

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  • January 16, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    voice of reason. I know for sure many journos hate click-baiting and their jobs now but it is not that easy to get out for some. I do know (because I meet them) that those who did get out never regretted it and wished they had done it earlier.

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  • January 16, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Voice of reason no it’s not a penal colony, nor are the other regional press groups, people are looking to leave across the board be they editorial or advertising folk however with so few jobs going it’s a big step for some, most of them ‘institutionalised’ and not realising how vibrant refreshing and giving a better quality of life / work life balance a job in the independent publishing sector is.
    It’s just a shame so many good people have suffered incompetent management, and frustrations at the way their jobs and roles have turned out that they feel the need to look elsewhere but look yokes even they do and so the talent drain from the big regional groups continues.

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  • January 16, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Evening all. Thanks for pointing that out paperboy.

    A lot of this depends on how you define clickbait. If you take the definition used most often that it’s stuff which has a misleading headline and you end up leaving disappointed (as used by Facebook to define the sorts of stories it now tries not to give a good show to) then we don’t do that. We need readers to like what they find, not to think they can’t trust a headline when they see it.

    If you mean clickbait as something which is written in such a way as to attract attention and then deliver what is being promised, then what you’re essentially criticising is stuff which is designed to be popular and therefore relevant to local audiences. Newspapers have surely always done that as part of a wide range of stuff which went in newspapers.

    The picture was being painted that we have thrown baby out with bathwater – we haven’t, as even a quick look at CornwallLive shows. As I said in my blog, I found Graham’s video intentionally misleading, and the criticism he makes of his former colleagues’ work simply inaccurate.

    I hope Graham’s new project succeeds, I’m just not convinced the best way to attract readers is to do so by criticising the work done by journalists on a website which is attracting more readers than ever before, and local readers who are sticking around for longer.

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