Steve Dyson: 'Are local papers hypocrites for hammering Town Hall publications?'
Steve Dyson on his blog reviewing regional newspapers, hosted by HoldtheFrontPage, looks today at the campaign launched by Trinity's Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle against the local council's newspaper - but is far from convinced.
He asks: "Is such a battle with Town Halls really needed or wanted, especially when the headlines are not as simple as those portrayed? For a start, many regional publishers are being just a tad hypocritical... they often hold the lucrative contracts to print and distribute the council papers they claim to hate.
Dyson asks: "So what about a touch of common sense... Do regional publishers not understand why councils feel they have been driven to publish their own version of the news? "For one, council chiefs feel they are not given a fair shout in local and regional newspapers. Okay, they would say that, along with the bosses of any other organisation properly scrutinised in the media. But they are also regularly told there is no space to cover the many issues they want to air anyway.
"And this argument is one that I have to say stands up if you take the trouble to analyse the reduced pagination and story counts of some local newspapers. For example, in the 26 March edition of the Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle launching the 'Proper Papers Not Propaganda' campaign, there were just 43 news stories on 17 news pages. Of these, not counting the campaign itself, just seven stories had content relating to the council, and three of these were only shorts."
Dyson suggests local papers and local councils should work together. "Surely there's a commercial answer to the reasons offered by councils for establishing their own papers? In return for the cessation of Town Hall publications, why not offer councils an 'in association with' pull-out on a regular basis in the real newspaper?
Financially, this will save the councils a shed-load of money on creating, printing and distributing their own publications, quite attractive given the current and pending public sector cuts. Negotiated properly, this could also provide much-needed revenues for traditional newspapers."
He adds: "Come on guys: show us you mean business rather than playing around with battles that use up too much journalistic effort, a resource that could be better used on real campaigns."
I am a freelance journalist based in the UK and was deputy editor of Press Gazette, the journalists' magazine, from 1993 until 2006. I want to give an independent view on media matters.
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