Gareth Davies worked for the Croydon Advertiser for eight years, during which time he frequently made the news himself - as four-time winner of the weekly newspaper reporter of the year title and as the subject of a harassment order as he pursued the story of a conwoman who was subsequently jailed.
Last week he provoked a Twitter storm with his tweets about the state of the paper he left in June. He has now put those thoughts into a detailed article, published below.
SubScribe's view of the latest debate and state of our local journalism can be seen here, here, here and here.
Why the Trinity Mirror model threatens local journalism
Tuesday 2 August 2016
On Friday evening I tweeted a photograph of this week’s Croydon Advertiser, the first edition in the weekly newspaper’s 147-year history put together without the input of the reporters who wrote the stories and with minimal involvement of an editor. Instead the paper was made up of articles taken directly from the Advertiser’s website by sub-editors based 50 miles away in Chelmsford, Essex. This is what Trinity Mirror, which bought the paper in October 2015 as part of its purchase of Local World, calls Newsroom 3.1, which is designed to free journalists to concentrate entirely on generating web traffic.
This week’s paper is a mess. Little to no thought has gone into its design. The story count is low and photographs have been used far beyond their usual size in order to compensate. The image I tweeted was of two consecutive pages which, instead of local news stories, consisted of a pair of listicles: “13 things you will know if you are a Southern rail passenger” and “9 things you didn’t know about Blockbuster”. Both were clickbait written for the web and thrown into print to fill space - an indication of what the paper will be as a result of what Trinity Mirror calls a “truly digitally-led” newsroom.
As a strong believer in the value of local journalism, and having worked at the Advertiser for almost eight years, I felt people ought to know.
The tweets (you can find a helpful summary of them here) prompted a large response, receiving 400,000 impressions within 24 hours. People from outside the industry, including readers in Croydon, were surprised and disappointed. Many former reporters said they had left local journalism for similar reasons. I was also contacted privately by journalists at other local and regional papers who recognised an all too familiar tale but, knowing the likely repercussions, have been unable to speak openly about their experiences.
The Advertiser and the other papers in its newsgroup are far from the only newspapers trapped in this race to the bottom. Equally, Trinity Mirror is by no means the only publisher helping it along. It’s probably not even the worst offender.
But what is happening at my former paper is indicative of a wider problem undermining local journalism - and by that I mean what it should be and not what it has become - to such an extent that it is probably beyond saving, at least in its traditional form. This article is about Trinity Mirror, and before that Local World and Northcliffe Media, but many of the problems it describes are playing out in dozens, if not hundreds, of newsrooms across the country...
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