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Daily axes ‘not particularly popular’ column after almost 22 years

A regional daily editor says a journalist’s weekly column has ended after almost 22 years because it is “not particularly popular” with readers.

John Philpott had supplied a column to the Worcester News for more than two decades on a freelance basis.

However, the regular piece has now ceased as part of a revamp of the News’s features output.

John has worked for a number of regional newspapers, including the News, in a career which has spanned almost five decades.

John Philpott

Worcester News editor Michael Purton told HTFP: “As part of a revamp of the features sections in the Worcester News, and to increase the amount of news articles in each edition of the newspaper, we decided to bring an end to freelance contributor John Philpott’s weekly column along with a number of other regular articles which, reader feedback showed, were not particularly popular.

“I’d like to thank John for his service to the Worcester News.”

However, John has claimed “number crunchers” were to blame for his departure.

The 68-year-old told HTFP: “Taking into account the number of Worcester’s establishment figures I have annoyed down the years, I must admit to being surprised that I survived this long.

“During the early days, there was a determined bid by the local Labour group to strangle the column at birth over a piece I wrote about an attempt to concrete over a much-loved park in the city.

“Thankfully, it failed – as did the concreting. But the incident showed that then, as now, Labour’s instinct is to stifle dissent.

“But having said that, I’ve also annoyed quite a few Tories in my time, including one very high-ranking individual who tried to knobble the then editor over several columns I wrote supporting a businessman’s attempt to save a Worcester theatre from closure.

“My column embraced numerous topics and talking points around Worcester and I was all set for another 22 years, but there you go.”

John said his “new-found freedom” will allow him to concentrate on publicising my second book titled Beef Cubes and Burdock, a memoir of a childhood spent in rural Warwickshire during the 1950s and early 60s.

He added: “Beef Cubes and Burdock is both a lament and a celebration of a vanished landscape, a lost way of life, and a depressingly vastly diminished bio-diversity.”

The book is published by Austin Macauley, and can be bought online, from booksellers or direct from the publisher.

9 comments

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  • June 4, 2018 at 10:10 am
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    Of course John’s column was “unpopular”, which is why it only ran for a piffling 22 years. Tackling sensitive local issues is a no-no these days and my own local paper admirably fills the gap created by sacking all its columnists with fashion items from the London catwalks and company annual reports in the Community News section. So, memo to Worcester council – concrete over that much-loved park! Who’s going to stop
    you now?

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  • June 4, 2018 at 11:01 am
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    What a depressingly familiar tone to that justification for calling a day on John’s weekly column.
    As his deputy editor for many years, it was often a pleasure and almost always an education to watch him in action and witness the response his column triggered. It wasn’t always popular… but it wasn’t meant to be. That’s the point.
    Mr Purton’s effort to play down John’s contribution, by describing him as a ‘freelance’, also speaks volumes.
    John might have been a freelance during his latter years, following retirement, but the statement fails to mention that he served the bulk of his years as a journalist on the News. He was well-placed and exceptionally qualified to provide the News’s readers — and the city fathers — with that diet of opinion.
    Scratch beneath the thin, poorly applied, corporate-speak veneer of the official statement and it isn’t hard to see the bean-counters at work. That sounds familiar, too.
    Such columns are meant to challenge, to prick pomposity, to expose self-interest and self-importance, and stand up for the little guy and the things he holds dear.
    It’s the kind of content that makes a newspaper the heart and soul of the local community. Or used to.
    Well done, John.

    Mark Higgitt

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  • June 4, 2018 at 11:57 am
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    We know all about sacking columnists, freelancers and even the cartoonist here,and as clem said to be replaced by generic space filler of interest to only a handful of readers( and that’s only a handful of just a handful of readers of the main daily so almost no one then)

    Good luck with the book John

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  • June 4, 2018 at 12:49 pm
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    Same old, same old everywhere, it seems…never mind, John, why not let Chance McCabe and the Subs Islanders sing the column, busking, instead..?

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  • June 4, 2018 at 1:02 pm
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    Yes, apropos Norridge, it was forgetful of me to wish you success with your book, John. However, it sounds as if the subject will only interest local readers with a curiosity about local history. How about ‘Ten Fascinating Origami Shapes You Can Make With A McDonald’s Serviette’ or perhaps ‘Poundland’s Best Ever Stationery Offers’? I hear the local press is booming with these sorts of essential topics these days.

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  • June 4, 2018 at 1:27 pm
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    Maybe John needs some tips from the world of digital journalism? Here are some handy tips to create popular content…

    1. Write about totally unrelated places. Why bother just with Worcester? Pack some handy filler in with the latest from St Ives or Carlisle as long as it gets clicks and reaction who gives a toss?

    2.run a best chippy in worcester poll. Like every week.

    3. Repeat that column from last month..they read it before they will read it again!

    4. Write in listicle format and make sure you make your main points in CAPS !!!

    5. Make sure to add a video even if its just of a pavement keep those handy pre rolls coming !!!

    6. If some berk writes something daft on twitter or facebook its news

    Think i’ve ran out of sarcasm now…

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  • June 4, 2018 at 1:51 pm
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    My path crossed that of Mr Philpott at the Worcester News a few years ago when as well as his column he was still doing the occasional freelance subbing shift. Patently obvious he was the type of old-school journalist who has more news sense, general knowledge and local political understanding in his little finger than several keen but dim young reporters put together.

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  • June 4, 2018 at 4:47 pm
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    It seems John has a higher opinion of himself than the readers did. After 22 years there’s very little new to say, and indeed, john wasn’t saying it.

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  • June 5, 2018 at 9:22 am
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    Thanks for those gracious words exsub. I guess at times like these we all need to know where everyone stands.

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