The real world of British local newspapers

November 23, 2008

Kent CourierWith the BBC Trust throw­ing a life­line to Britain’s local news­pa­pers, will they rein­vent them­selves pronto? The sounds from the under­ground are not good.

Here’s Ton­bridge blog­ger on why he’s no long­ing writ­ing for the Kent Cour­ier (part of DMGT’s North­cliffe).

Read it and weep:

Are the senior people at the Cour­ier group so divorced from real­ity that they can’t notice when they’ve cocked up and ended up rub­bing salt in the wounds? In the last few months they have decided to turn Com­munity Life colum­nists into “Com­munity Media Part­ners” ask­ing them (includ­ing me) to not only work for no pay­ment, but also to sell ad space to local busi­nesses on their behalf to go on a com­munity blog…

More than two thirds of the colum­nists have now, mys­ter­i­ously decided that now is the time to call it a day, some of them after 14 years of ser­vice for £9 a week. But, hang on I nearly for­got, they did give us £3 a month, yes that’s right a month, expenses. Just enough to be able to buy a copy of the news­pa­per each week (which of course they made us pay for!)…

Dur­ing my time at the paper I was only once asked to go to any kind of social func­tion, the Heart in the Com­munity Awards; this was the only oppor­tun­ity they provided us with to meet up with a few of the other colum­nists (pos­sibly to share ideas and improve our columns, who knows.)

Not that I really expec­ted it but we had no Christ­mas party, no annual gath­er­ing, no vis­its to the print works, no meet­ing with edit­or­ial staff, no organ­ised trips, in short bug­ger all.

Now to cap it all, they have the auda­city to ask us in their …“sorry you’ve decided not to con­tinue with writ­ing your column…” final part­ing let­ter if we could “urge” some other suit­able friend to phone JD with a view to becom­ing CMP’s (the abbre­vi­ation for their new title which prob­ably really stands for: Crappy Media People).

So here you go, here’s an invit­a­tion to someone out there: Does any­one want to write a com­munity column for a local news­pa­per which is going slowly but surely down the pan, become an unpaid advert­ise­ment sales per­son, never get to meet any of your col­leagues, get vir­tu­ally zilch expenses, receive no free copy of the news­pa­per in which your column appears…Any takers?…

Doesn’t bode well. Mean­while over at Altern­at­ive Ton­bridge Blog:

Why have I stopped writ­ing my column in the Cour­ier? Quite simply they were tak­ing the Micky Bliss; they sent out a gen­eral let­ter to all us com­munity cor­res­pond­ents say­ing that they are no longer going to pay us but that they wanted us to carry on writ­ing the column any­way in the form of a blog and then they would choose the best bits for the weekly bit in the paper. Well guess what Cour­ier? I’m already blog­ging and I beat you to it by two and a half years.

And just com­pare the busy, link-laden Ton­bridge Blog to the Cour­ier’s Com­munity News page. Ouch.

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