Monday, 16 April 2012


Those of us who blog do so partly to express our own opinion but sometimes equally to engage others in debate and to play our own little part in the wider public engagement needed for any healthy democracy. we of course are but amateurs, often picked up by our detractors  for our poor lexicon and spelling. 

The real gift it seems lies in the hands of local reporters in local newspapers who offer an insight in to all that surrounds us, not too distracted by the national headlines our locals give us the human life and labours existing right on our doorstep.  For it is with a mixture of dismay, loss and anger that the rumours of the Chronicle and Echo (Northampton's daily Newspaper) demise became the reality. 

In what must be one of its most confused stories in its very long history the paper informed us all that:

"Northamptonshire Newspapers – publisher of the Northampton Chronicle & Echo – has announced plans to re-launch the Chron in a move to “platform neutral” publishing."
before going on to tell its puzzled readers that:
"At the same time the websites will receive a light touch re-launch with improvements to the home page and improved social networking and commenting functionality"
It is a cruel irony that in recent weeks I have neglected this blog (partly because I was on holiday) and instead have been commenting online to stories published in the paper on their website

The paper goes alongside another 5 daily titles the local Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph, the  Peterborough Evening Telegraph, the Scarborough Evening News and the Halifax Courier. More titles are expected to follow suit later this month.

This isn't news, its the end of the news, a disaster for the town, any town or city that aspires needs a nightly newspaper and this decision by the Johnston Group shows how little they care for Northampton and its staff, first they moved the print operation to Peterborough, then they downsized and put the building up for sale and now they propose a weekly. 

I am appalled at this decision and the staff should be up in arms. And an end of decades in fact centuries of daily news for the town. Johnson's have asset stripped the Chronicle and Echo and if we can't have a nightly Chronicle and Echo then it is best they close the whole damn show now as the proposals above are little but window dressing for a full closure. 

This is not a answer to modern technology and modern times as thousands of people still read the print version daily and then pass it on to thousands more! What good is a match report or preview for the Cobblers or Saints when it is either 4 days after the event or 3 days before?

So centuries of history from the Mercury and Herald first paper in 1720, through to the mergers with the Northampton Mail and the the newly formed Chronicle and Echo in 1931 have all come to nothing, or in fact they have come to this, a town with a population of over 210,000 and no nightly newspaper. If Johnston Press car nothing for our history and future then they should still have the decency to sell the title on rather than kill it off.
Although many of us have predicted this downfall since owners Johnston Press took over the newspaper even its own staff and ex staff have been angered by the news and in respect for the real journalists rather than us pretenders I leave the last words to one of their own 
Dirk Van Der Werff who wrote for the Hartlepool Mail who having heard the news said
I’ve been out of the JP morass for almost 10 years now, bailed out after Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair (allegedly) got ‘involved’ in the politics and news decisions of a good local editor and a good newspaper with 4 and 8 page pull-out editions of the Letter Page, so popular had it become as a campaigning local newspaper.

My guess is that the Hartlepool Mail where I worked for 25 years will be on the list of the next newspapers, along with others in the north east. I’m sure some of my ex-Management colleagues will feel differently, but that was the close-up view of editorial staff JP management, across the group and regions, were all so busy ‘making budgets’ and ‘making savings’ to ‘make bonus’ that they didn’t care about anyone who actually cared about the newspaper rather than ‘the product’
Generally, across the group, very few senior managers lived in the circulation areas, and much less cared about the communities they served.

Swathes of people and jobs slashed left right and centre by ‘managers’, who made their big fat bonuses and then moved on to the next ‘product’ on the next newspaper to make more ‘savings’ and make more ‘bonus’ for themselves… slapping their collective backs along the way.
Grand ideas about content that should and shouldn’t be on the internet, dithering and vague airy fairy ideas about ‘monetizing’ content at the same time as giving it away seemed way beyond the grasp of many of them who talked a good game, but who never played a good game. More ‘out of the box blue sky thinking’ than you could talk about in a month of Sundays .. They all just lost the plot, and lost it a decade ago, never mind recently.

I dearly hope that local newspapers will rise phoenix like from the ashes of the bonfire they have become, that local entrepreneurs and community businessmen will take it on themselves to create a new generation of hybrid newspapers for a new social media and digital age.
Democracy has taken a huge back seat in this country because of the demise of local newspapers .. no one full time keeping an eye on the council, no-one digging into crime stories .. no one making ANYONE accountable anymore, just PR fluff and awful ‘citizen photographs’ taken on an iPhone.
Today, I’m thinking about the many good people losing and about to lose their jobs.
What a mess JP made, what a mess.


  1. For years the Chronicle & Echo has been frustrating,infuriating and sometimes just plain wrong.But it has a local integrity and it has a talented staff.many of the country's best journalists started on the paper-even the one-time editor of Wisden's!
    So Johnston's want to get shot of one more provincial newspaper all all the fancy jargon in the world cannot disguise the contempt with which they hold the people of this town,their loyal journalists and their responsibility to the community they are supposed to serve!
    It is of course not a surprise, they have been in trouble ever since they acquired their vanity flagship 'The Scotsman'.
    They also own the little weekly from my home, and for years 'The Galloway Gazette' served the folk of south west Scotland with a mixture of village gossip and,well more village gossip.But it was awell loved wee paper that covered a whole area.
    It is still a well loved paper,but its coverage is somewhat restricted these days-that happens when you reduce the staff from 27 to 9!
    So how many jobs will be lost here when it goes weekly?
    How many print workers lost their jobs when they closed the print-works?
    It should be put up for sale as a going concern with the hope that someone will take it on-maybe a staff buy out?
    Just as long as its not bloody Legal & General!

  2. It is a very sad day, I will really miss the Chron.


  3. Just read this from Bristol

    We have just heard [14th April] that the Evening Post will be losing 19 of its 56 editorial workforce.

    All 8 photographers are being sacked and will only be engaged in future on a freelance basis.

    The Evening Post will no longer be printed on Saturday and the listings magazine Venue will only be available on the internet.

    The publications are owned by Lord Rothermere’s Northcliffe Media group which made a 7% profit of £17 million last financial year after sacking 530 of the workforce.

    The Post itself still makes money, but not enough to satisfy the greedy owners who have no qualms about putting workers on the scrapheap.

    I love a party with an atmosphere!

    Come and demonstrate at the function being held to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the Evening Post.

    Meet Tuesday 17th April 6.30pm at the Bristol Galleries Shopping Centre, Broadmead.

    This is not just about saving jobs but ensuring that we keep a local paper which can deal with the issues that are of concern to Bristol people.

  4. It is sad that many great quality Journalists and photographers may lose their jobs. It is particularly sad to see a 'heritage' paper such as 'The Chron' is all but disappearing.

    I don't work for the 'the Chron' but I have had lots of local media experience and still work in the media game. I am not ashamed to admit that 'platform neutral' is new to me! What the hell are they talking about? What it all really means you will have to use the internet to get your local news now. No printing costs there then and... If the 'net' is not your thing then... tough!

    I think its worth referring back to the late eighties and nineties. Local radio stations flourished with Northants 96 providing good local content and entertainment from a high profile location in Abington Street. Carl Emms, Steve Marsh, Colin Wiltsher, Mark Collins, Terry Doyle, Mark Jeeves and a long line of others all broadcast locally to a local audience. Local radio doesn't exist anymore either... despite what you might hear. Local radio across the region was killed off years ago in the same way they are killing off local papers now. All you have now is bland music endlessly repeated interspersed with bland voices offering little or no local content or information... they will tell you about Harry Potters Museum in Hertfordshire somewhere and offer you the chance to win a ticket but cannot tell you about local issues in Northampton simply because they have one journalist covering four counties. Thank god we still have Bernie Keith and co at Radio Northampton. The big question is how long will they last?

    I thought the local paper was going to survive this fate but clearly not... cost cutting, rationalisation, the relentless chase for the national advertising pound is where the business focus is now.

    Forget localness, forget community, forget identity... this is nothing more than providing shareholders with profit... It happened in the local radio business and it continues with the destruction of the local paper industry across the UK... sad!

    Time to change thing? I think so.

  5. I think once the passion and the politics die down we need to accept the realities of local newspapers and the media in general.

    They are profit making business whose number one priority is to make money. It has always been that way and don't let any rose tinted view of a bygone past tell you any different.

    Therefore its like any business - if you dont have enough customers for a product you change the product. If the people of Northampton were buying the Chron daily and there were enough of them then the owners would keep printing. There is a reason why Cadburys keep making creme eggs. People keep buying them.

    A daily updated website can be incredibly powerful for the Chron and with the advent of social media a story on line today about the market square (not another one I know) could be read withing minutes not only in Bellinge but in Beijing and Brisbane.

    When newspapers were invented, the town criers of Britain said it was a sad day, local democracy was finished, profits were being put before the community etc etc.

    Times change - or do they?

  6. by some curious serendipity the logo of the Chron & Echo was a town crier!presumably with the advent of the printed word all those deaf townsfolk went 'Yippee!-news at last!'
    The real point is that we need a variety of sources of information and that includes traditional newspapers as much as electronic alternatives.
    Some local newspapers work well, the emphasis iss on the word local.What has happened here is that a national company has taken a national view and ignored what is local.
    The pattern was set by BBC radio Northampton, which is more about the BBC and less about Northampton!

  7. I seriously didnt know about the town crier!

    I agree - we do need a variety of information sources but they will only ever succeed if they make money.

    I do not disagree that a national company has taken a national view but come back to the original point. If enough people brought the C&E to make it economically viable then we would still be getting a daily edition in the years ahead.

    I dont think that many people listen to BBC Radio Northampton to be honest. If it were an independent station it would have closed long ago (look at Heart FM going 'regional'

    Of course there is room for misty eyed nostalgia but a bit more focus on 'why dont people listen to local radio or why dont local people want a daily local paper' wouldnt go a miss and may go some way to addressing the problem.

    1. BBC Northampton is one of the most listened to stations in the county 22% reach and 12% share... very good figures actually recently published... and no I don't work for them either.

    2. In the newspaper business it is not about how many copies you sell. Its the amount of advertising you sell into each copy that generates the most revenue. The number of papers sold is more to do with quality (or the lack)of content.

  8. I dissagree with 'welcome 2012' There is the obvious requirement to make money. It is why the paper existed and thrived for many many years. If you work in Media (I do) you will recognise that there is the 'tunnel visioned' view that national revenue is the only advertising 'pound' out there. Local Radio followed the 'national' pound too.

    The local advertising market does exist but requires people on the ground (more cost) to collect it. However, run correctly it is a profitable business too. Johnson Press have made the decision that they want the 'national advertising pound' because it is easier than being local. This is exactly what happened to local commercial radio... they went after the national advertising pound and get this...! they refuse the 'local pound' because those type of clients it generates on their station does not create the image they want... shame on them for that.

    There are different business models and the model chosen by Johnson press is creating one national product by grouping together all the local ones. Make them all the same thereby reducing costs and maximizing revenue. The have decided to move away from the local business model, local paper/local identity/local advertiser model
    So I agree with John Dickie the localness that is gone and I wonder how long a local readership base will accept what will effectively be a national product under a brand that used to be local... That shows lack of respect, a form of trickery if you will that we have ended up with... in print as well as on the radio dial!

    1. Just one other point to prove my point. How many 'Heart' stations are there now?... and how long will it be before for all Johnston Newspapers are given one title? You will get the answer when Johnson try to further standardise their product by using one name and have a (supposed) relaunch of a 'brand new' (or new brand) in Northampton... a form of trickery if you will..but i said that already!

  9. I think its becoming all a bit too deep and 'media obsessed with media' now.

    Newspapers are a business and about supply and demand. Johnston Press would print the daily C&E (supply) if enough people brought it (demand) which would mean more businesses would be prepared to advertise in it.

    BBC Radio I'm afraid is on the way out. Once you get past the breakfast show the numbers just dissapear.

    Not sure what the fear is over the on line version of the C&E anyway? Still lots of room for local stories (if not more room) and a wider audience to read all about it. Heck, even if you like reading in the armchair or on the loo, they have modern things called i-phones now you know ....

    1. welcome 2012, I understand your thinking and it is one of a lay person who makes personal opinion into fact.

      1. you are incorrect about Radio Northampton. What you say is incorrect I have seen the figures.

      newspaper sales is a tiny...yes tiny part of revenue generation compared to the advertising revenue generated by any newspaper... fact!

      While I won't labour the point you might want to do some research into the claims you make. Perhaps look at projections for age profile of population of Northampton over the next five years and look at what type of media these people use. You will find radio and printed newspapers highest on that list.

      I do agree that web, social media, etc is a valid and growing medium. However, that is not the issue. The issue is less local news, less local identity, less individuality, less passion about the local people these local media say they are serving... instead they only really serve their shareholders.

  10. Good to see some lively debate, One pebble to throw into the pond, is that my understanding was that the newspaper was making a small profit locally, as has been suggested above through local advertising revenue, however the Chron has now been sacrificed at the alter of national corporate interest fueled by massive mismanagement. My graph above shows the share price in Johnston Press plummeting from over £5.00 down to around 30p, I wrote to the editor today and pointed out to him that it was now even lower at 6.81p. As I write this they are down further at 5.75p having hit a daily low of 5.4p. So we can see what the markets reaction is to the announcement. Hopefully someone will come in and take over and reverse this terrible decision.

  11. Most of us like to have the ability to buy a local paper when there is something of interest in the local news, but the plain facts are not enough people are buying them on a regular basis. Newpaper circulation in general has been in decline over recent years as more people use the internet to find out the news. Both local papers are still going to have an internet presence, but whether this will be changing to a paid for version, like the Times, rather than remain free, remains to be seen.

    One thing I have noticed is that the people doing the most complaining about the demise of the printed versions are the people who use the local media in one way or another to further their own cause. Having something in print to show people tends to cary more creedence than showing someone a printout of an internet page.

    I am sad to see the papers go, but then that is progress. As people on the political left keep telling me change is good, things cannot stay the same much as we would like them to!

  12. Mr Engel in his article in the FT refers to the fact that online media outlets also have their own agendas, possibly more so. Johnson Press is a strategy to provide a dividend to shareholders.

    Online media is growing but the point I continue to make is that it is not local. Just wait and you will see a standardisation of online media outlets across all of the papers affected by this. Articles suitable to be published online can be published across all online outlets, its cheaper They can't do that with local news relevent to one area only, its more expensive.

    This entire project is nothing to do with localness or the provision of local information. Promises to maintain a level of localness will not be kept. The only thing this is to do with is the financial satisfaction of shareholders...

    I can see it now... Mrs Smith talking to her friend on Abington Street, pulls out her ipad, turns it on, waits for it to load, almost drops it as she trys to type in the web address and she says to her friend 'have you seen the picture of my grandson playing football on the racecourse last sunday?' ...

    The destruction of local media is a shame, it serves a vital purposein the same way national media does. One cannot replace the other and that is what Johnson Press are doing. The lack of 'soul' we see in the town in recent years is based around the simple fact that people just don't know whats going on anymore because there is no local media outlets for them to listen to or read. They dont have the ability to know or feel part of the town so we become silent.

    The 'death' of the 'daily' in Northampton is just another blow to the 'soul' of this town regardless of the usual justifications made by those who say online media is the only way forward. It may be cheaper but why must everything be driven by the lowest denominator... and that, in truth is what is really happening!

  13. i have to say that this is a sad day for the town and will eventually kill off the paper completely, i am the ipad / mac generation, and i tried to receive copies of publications on line, and for me it doesnt work, i want a cup of tea and a newspaper.




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