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Digital chief rebuts ‘misguided’ claims over daily newspaper coverage

HiggersonClaims two thirds of all local authority districts are not covered by a daily newspaper are “misguided”, a digital publishing chief has said.

David Higgerson, left, has rebutted claims made in a study by King’s College, London, which found that 273 local authority districts out of a total of 406 had no daily local newspaper coverage.

The research was commissioned by the National Union of Journalists and published last week as part of its week-long Local News Matters campaign.

However, the Trinity Mirror Regionals digital publishing director says it was “wrong” of the study to suggest certain areas are not covered – using its presentation of how the North-West of England is presented as an example.

Districts shown as “not being served” by a daily on a map used in the research include Trafford and Bury, which are covered by the Manchester Evening News, and Wyre, served by Blackpool-based daily The Gazette.

On his personal blog, David wrote: “How each paper covers an area is a different matter. Some, such as the Lancashire Telegraph, have dedicated editions for some of the areas the maps suggest they don’t serve. Others, such as the Liverpool Echo, have increased their coverage of places such as St Helens in recent years.

“The MEN has always covered Trafford and Bury – but there will also be local weekly newspapers which cover those places in more depth. But to say they aren’t served is wrong.”

David also argued that the report had focused only on print circulation and failed to take online audiences into consideration.

He added: “The big gap in the NUJ’s report is online. It’s also a fundamental weakness of the King’s report, as it is based on print circulation alone. For example, the Liverpool Echo can reach up to 8pc of the St Helens population online everyday, which more than meets the print reach criteria the King’s report outlines. This is repeated across the country.

“Critics would say that digital reach is not proof of filling a democratic deficit, but truth be told, neither is print reach. What we do know online is exactly what people read. The mission at the company I work at (Trinity Mirror) is that we want to part of people’s everyday lives.

“The content strategy which emerged from that (which I helped create) is that we aim create meaningful relationships with people by providing them with information they are looking for so that they will listen to us when we have information we think they should be taking in.

“In an era of 20pc of people turning out to vote in local elections, building that relationship has never been more important.”


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  • April 4, 2017 at 8:59 am

    No matter how you dress it up, how you make the figures suit your end, if the end user feels their area Isn’t being covered or has had a drop off in focus or attention they will vote with their feet and go elsewhere. No one has a divine right to anyone’s time or money and we all know when teams are reduced to the bone and less people are employed something’s got to give and apart from an overall dumbing down and reliance on free and irrelevant content it’s the fringes that go first, the court reports, the hyper local coverage, the community news,if anyone thinks the news service and area coverage is what it was or what it should be they’re fooling themselves.

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  • April 4, 2017 at 9:14 am

    David needs to take a long hard look at TM websites and the digital news they are providing. Simply having a website for the folk of Newtown or Oldcity to peruse is not good enough.
    Not enough local news on many TM websites.
    Click bait? Yes.
    Rewritten (if you’re lucky) press releases? Yes.
    Local news, meaningful local ‘news’, telling people something new, not recycled? No.
    His response smacks of a ‘let’s try and kid the advertisers’.

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  • April 4, 2017 at 9:21 am

    Depends what you mean by coverage I suppose, North West tonight ‘covers’ the North West but that basically amounts to the odd shooting in Manchester and the Ramsbottom annual pie throwing competition. I’d imagine if you live in Ormskirk (where Trinity Mirror axed its local paper) for example, you’re not best served by North West tonight.

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  • April 4, 2017 at 10:06 am

    What world do these bosses live in? If you cut staff then something has to give. The problem is also compounded even by those in editorial who think the public are not interested in courts/councils yet joe public ratepayer wants to know what his/her local council is up to and equally what happened to the “villains” when they come before the courts. One on paper I worked on the court lists and council/cttee hearings would be checked each day and if it was thought worthwhile to go then someone wld be despatched to the mtng/hearing. Problem is that there are fewer people to send.

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  • April 4, 2017 at 11:11 am

    I can tell you my district council has not seen sight of a scribbler from the local “regional” paper for at least five years and probably a lot longer. And it rarely sees one from the weekly, which once covered several meetings a week if needed.
    Local democracy is doing what it likes. Local blogs give better coverage.

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  • April 4, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Very few newspapers can seriously claim to be covering their local councils properly – and you can’t help feeling those who would make that claim are out of touch with the reality on the ground. Of course they go to the main meetings of county councils and the occasional district meeting when there’s a key issue.

    But it’s rare you see any evidence or digging around in agendas or stumbling across a good row by virtue of being at the meeting to see what happens. On the rare occasion that this does happen, you’ll catch the bosses crowing about it all over social media not realising it’s the exception that proves the rule.

    As a result, democracy is indeed increasingly taking place effectively behind closed doors. Of course this wouldn’t be a good use of resources in these tight times, but let’s not pretend otherwise.

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  • April 4, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    Hi ‘Saddened Journo.’ Not surprisingly, I disagree with your assessment of the stories published on our sites. Sure, some of them are designed to be more populist, but none are ever designed to deceive people into clicking on them. Stories do come from press releases, but to say we have no meaningful local news telling people something new is just wrong. Many of our sites publish more than 1,500 stories a month. Local audience is going up and the time those people spend with us is going up, and the frequency of their visit is going up too. We don’t need to kid advertisers because the numbers speak for themselves.

    The point I was making in my blog was that it was wrong to define local coverage of an area based only on whether a daily newspaper was based there.

    @Jeff Jones – The Ormskirk Advertiser is still there? Sort of agree with you on how you define ‘covering’ an area, but the point of the blog was to show that it was very easy to spot areas which do have meaningful coverage from a daily paper which has been excluded from the NUJ research, and also to flag the oversight of not including weeklies in any discussions of local news coverage.

    @wordsmith – Depth of coverage and what is covered etc is a very different discussion to saying areas aren’t covered at all when they are. Worth also remembering that courts and councils are far harder to c
    over these days than they were, say, 20 years ago.

    @Norfolk ‘n Good Maybe I’m out of touch, but I see strong local council coverage in many titles, day in day out. The Lancashire Telegraph, my local daily, for example, or the Bolton News down the road from me. Plus many of the titles I work with. There’s a lot councils could do to help ensure their decisions are taken in public, of course.

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  • April 5, 2017 at 10:06 am


    Fair play to you for replying to the article.

    The depth of coverage is a real issue. Ormskirk, Formby, Crosby all had their own newspaper offices up until about 10 years ago, their own group editor, photographers etc.

    Now each town is covered by the Southport Visiter, but you could be talking a nib at best. In the grand scheme of things that could be counted as ‘coverage’, but it’s not really – not to someone that lives in that town and cares about that town.

    I think the research is important and has raised a major issue.

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  • April 5, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    Hi Jeff,

    I’ve just read last week’s Ormskirk Advertiser – it’s not at all how you describe.

    On the research, all in favour of research and have no problem with it reaching critical conclusions but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for it to be factually accurate, which it isn’t. The research didn’t make points about depth of coverage, it simply stated whether areas were served based on whether x% of households received a copy of the paper. That surely isn’t how we should judge local news coverage these days?

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