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Not just chasing clicks: Higgerson defends London attack coverage

Trinity Mirror’s digital publishing chief has defended local press coverage of Wednesday’s London terror attack saying papers were merely reflecting what their readers were talking about.

Former Croydon Advertiser chief reporter Gareth Davies sparked debate after claiming on Twitter that local newspapers were “milking” the tragedy live-blogging the incident.

He went to accuse local papers of reporting “spurious or non-existent” local angles and suggested they were guilty of “professional ambulance chasing.”

But Trinity Mirror Regionals digital publishing director David Higgerson refuted the claim, arguing that local people are “perfectly happy to get national news from a local news site.”

In a post on his personal blog, David wrote: “Put simply, newsrooms responded to what their audiences were talking about. Just because we, as journalists, mark out our work between national news organisations and local ones doesn’t mean our readers do.

“That is perhaps best evidenced by looking at some of the social media posts shared by local news organisations over the past 24 hours. They show that what some dismiss as ‘spurious local angles’ are actually of interest to local readers, while others demonstrate that local people are perfectly happy to get national news from a local news site, because they trust it as a news source.”

David then highlighted a series of Facebook posts by local news providers about the attack all of which had gained hundreds of likes and shares.

They included this image of PC Keith Palmer, who was killed in the attack, published on the Facebook page of Sheffield daily The Star with the words: “PC Keith Palmer. Husband. Father. National hero. R.I.P.”


Added David:  “To me, the posts show that regional coverage of a national news event is not about ‘chasing clicks’, it’s about being part of a conversation with your readers every day, and when they start seeking information about a national news event, it makes sense that they turn to the source they interact with on most days.

“My view is simple: The regional press demonstrated yesterday that it can play a vital role in the sharing of information in real-time, and be trusted to report respectfully on events which have had such tragic consequences.”


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  • March 24, 2017 at 11:18 am

    The image of pic Keith Palmer was doing the rounds all over social media attaining likes and comments so local news sites are pretty desperate if they’re laying claim to people going to their sites and liking it.
    the point is the public trust the main news providers ; primarily the BBC and Sky,and know the news will be immediate well presented,accurate,first hand and include all manner of news feeds; interviews eye witness,video footage, expert opinion and analysis on the spot, on the fly and in real time , a regional news site far away will not be able to compete and will always be the poor relation so of little real value to people wanting fast accurate updates, I’m sure even the sites regular users would seitch to a national site for ‘one stop’ news of events such as this, so a reporter giving a live blog or tweeting really can’t hope to compete, hence the suggestion they stick to what they know and don’t use it merely as click bait to attract traffic to their sites.

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  • March 24, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Well he would say that wouldn’t he?! Just take a look at some of the website coverage and it is obvious that few of them added anything to the story. Who on earth would use the website of their local paper to find out the facts of such a major story? They’d go straight to BBC or even mail online which also did a half way reasonable job of covering these terrible events.

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  • March 24, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    Dave higgersons response and reasoning sums up a big part of what’s wrong with the country’s regional press in an era of great flux and change in the industry

    Regional publishers are desperate to be everything to everyone in order to attract an audience and with it ad tevenue,in doing so they have lost sight of their once main reason for being, notably as a publisher of comprehensive local news in the areas they serve.

    With people changing how they access news from a local daily or weekly paper, out of date as soon as it’s published, to a multitude of online providers so naturally with it sales go through the floor, then instead of investing in improving its news service and publishing empires tomahe the papersmore appearing and play to their stengths they hop around trying to jump aboard anything they can to attract ad revenues, thus distancing themselves from their core business and focus.
    Local publishers cannot do justice to this kind of horrific national and world event so should step aside and leave it to those who can and who, like it or not, attract viewers, readers, online traffic and so forth,attracting on line revenues as a result, being a by product of their service not the aim.

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  • March 24, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    ” tomahe the papersmore appearing”
    Should of course be;
    …”to make the papers more appealing ”

    … it’s me age you know!

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  • March 24, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    Let’s just stop and think for a moment here. We have the biggest story of the day, if not the year, and the whole country is talking about it. Are we really suggesting that the regional press should just not bother reporting anything about it because they can’t compete with the BBC?

    Imagine you go to your local newspaper’s website in the aftermath of the attack and there is no mention of it whatsoever. What is your impression of that news organisation then?

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  • March 24, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    I don’t think anyone’s saying don’t cover the event as a news piece,that would be ridiculous as you say, it’s the tenuous links,live blogging or the ‘local connection’ ,in all likelihood to attract clicks and web traffic, commenters here and on the original piece were referring to

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  • March 24, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    So we’re agreed that regionals should cover major national events. The best way to cover a fast moving, developing story is with a live blog. Why would you not do that?

    “To attract clicks and web traffic”. That’s the business we’re in, isn’t it? When you get a “click”, that’s a reader reading a story. Do you not want readers to read your stories? Sorry if that sounds facetious, but this is a criticism that really gets my goat.

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  • March 24, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Of course they should cover it. Why on Earth wouldn’t they? It’s all about being relevant.
    And, of course, readers are perfectly able to decide where they get their news. It seems quite a lot of them read material on ‘regional’ websites, so that’s Mr H vindicated, isn’t it?

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  • March 27, 2017 at 7:47 am

    ‘@south side Johnnie’ I think your assessment of regional journalism is very bleak, and not based on what is going on. I can only speak for the work I’m involved in, but our aim isn’t to be all things to all people but to provide people with stuff that we can be good at, which they want. That’s mainly local-related stuff, be it breaking news, original journalism, in-depth coverage of sport or informational content about an area.

    We haven’t abandoned what we’re good at, but we have had to change to reflect the fact that, in a digital age, we can’t bundle up everything we think anyone might want and push it at them in one package.

    You talk about generating ad revenue as though it’s a bad thing – it’s the thing which keeps us in work. Our challenge, and we don’t always get this right but we’re making a lot of progress, is to generate that revenue by producing stuff people want, which people enjoy and which people return too. Hopping around on anything which generates revenue? It’s more structured than that – we try lots of new things to see what works, just as the local news industry always has.

    While it’s probably fair to say that a local newsroom 100 miles can’t compete with the BBC or Sky in terms of people at the scene reporting, access to wire services combined with local contacts means we can provide a level of coverage which, our data shows, people do want.

    Most of the people who read our stories about what happened in London were our brand loyal readers, so this suggests we were in tune with our most loyal readers. The local lines which ‘Jazzie’ is so keen to be critical of were most likely to be read by people on social media. Every story call is subjective, but I would argue that our data suggests that relevant local lines (and lets not forget that every newsroom in the country had to check to see if their MP was in Westminster) were of interest to local people and they were sharing those lines on social media.

    Hindsight is always 20:20, and it’s only right we review how well or otherwise we did when taking second by second decisions on a big story. The audience data – which tells us not only how many people read a story but also infers what they though of it, and then is overlaid with looking at what people were actually saying about it – suggests we got it right in the main for our core audiences.

    Knowing what our core readers want and how is surely a strength for the regional Press?

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  • March 28, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Providing a superior,unique and in depth local news coverage,only available at a local level and about the areas and communities they live in is surely what your core readers want Mr Higginson,maybe if this aspect alone was concentrated on then the number of people buying your newspapers would be on the increase rather than in decline.
    A hyper local news service which local people would be prepared to pay good money for would also attract the much needed local ad revenues you rightly speak of,advertisers go where they get response or the most effective coverage and service, if they dont get it or aren`t getting it it might be worth asking why?

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  • March 28, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    My assessment of regional journalism isn’t bleak, my assessment of the focus local publishers seem to have lost sight of certainly is.
    My point is why try to jump aboard a national news event and compete with those who do this so well when the strength of a local publisher must be to provide its community with a first class second to none local news service. This horrific event will always play out better on national news sites,not local ones where the link to the piece will always be loose to say the least,
    If the depth of local coverage to the core audience was spot on and deemed of value, the number of people choosing not to buy would not be so vast, when the audience goes the much needed ad revenues goes with them so far better to invest in a superior, professional and unique localised news service 365 days a year and build sustainble readerships and commercial revenues than try to offer a local angle on a national event when possibly one really doesn’t exist, unless it’s just for clicks which was my original point

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