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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