AllOverMcr

Dodson’s doings

Posted in journalism by allovermcr on May 18, 2009

Today was the first day that all local GMG papers were produced from the company’s central Manchester offices. Offices in Accrington, Ashton, Macclesfield, Oldham, Rochdale, Rossendale, Salford, Stockport and Wilmslow have closed, with reporters holding ‘surgeries’ in their patches.

The man ultimately responsible for this move – a fine example of whatever the opposite of hyperlocal journalism is called – is Mark Dodson, chief exec of GMG’s regional newspaper division.

In a spare moment, AOM tapped Mr Dodson’s name into Google. The second link is what can only be described as a rather fawning profile of the man from a couple of years back, courtesy of the MEN website.

One line in particular caught the eye:

His passion for shaping media markets to best serve their local communities has been a driving force behind the growth and development of GMG’s Regional Division.

No one can accuse the man of not shaping media markets, that’s for sure, but whether his actions best serve their local communities is quite another matter.

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How local is local?

Posted in journalism by allovermcr on May 3, 2009

The Manchizzle’s latest post contains this nugget explaining how the MEN’s sister papers will operate in the post-cuts environment:

…when I bought my GMG-owned Rossendale Free Press yesterday, it had a notice about how the newsroom was now at Scott Place in Manchester, and if I wanted to talk with a reporter in Ramsbottom I could do so at a 2-hour “surgery” once a week.

Bindy launch isn’t all it seems

Posted in journalism by allovermcr on April 30, 2009

News reaches AOM of an upstart hoping to shake up the media scene in the north of the region and challenge the local monopoly held by Newsquest. The Bury Independent apparently launched earlier this month, with a Bolton sister paper to follow soon. Fantastic news! Nothing like a bit of competition to drive up standards, eh, and greater plurality can’t be a bad thing.

Or can it? Closer inspection reveals some worrying signs. The description on the publisher’s site explains the aims of the new title thus:

The Bury Independent is an up-beat newspaper aimed at providing the people within Bury good, positive and light hearted storys about real people in local communities. The Bury Independent lists and informs on all the local events and goings on in and around Bury. News on local health, educaction, sports and services can also be found in this community newspaper. Lots of great offers and prizes can also be found in every issue.

Hmmm, that mention of “good, positive and light hearted storys (sic)” doesn’t sound ideal, but hey ho, at least there’ll be more coverage of “local health, educaction (sic), sports and services”.

Just out of curiosity then, a wander over to the paper’s website, where we find this:

WELCOME to the BURY INDEPENDENT, folks – your newGOOD NEWS-paper!

Because that’s what we’re all about. GOOD NEWS. At last, you’ve got a local paper that looks on the bright side of life. And we have to say: It’s about time! It seems like whenever you switch on your TV or open a paper, there’s a doom and gloom everywhere. Well not here! Not with your upbeat Bury Independent. We know there’s loads going on in your neighbourhood that deserves to be publicised, stories to put a smile on your face and make you proud. So every month we pledge to bring you YOUR NEWS – stories of what’s happening WHERE YOU ARE. We want to truly reflect the great things that are happening in our communities. So look out for your fab new local community paper every month – we know YOU’LL LOVE IT!

Good news? (sorry, GOOD NEWS). So that’s nothing about crime,  corruption or the crap state of public transport in the area, then. Bloody marvellous. All the residents of Bury are actually going to get is a paper that prints fluff and drains ad money away from the rest of the local media that at least try to cover the less attractive aspects of life in their patches.

Some good news

Posted in journalism by allovermcr on April 15, 2009
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No news is bad news

Posted in journalism by allovermcr on March 20, 2009

The local cutbacks proposed by the Guardian Media Group can only be described as worrying. Following similar moves by newspaper groups nationwide the announcement had a certain inevitability, but the scale of the plans is pretty shocking.

Some (very few) of the cost-cutting measures outlined appear understandable – cutting the number of free papers given out at a time when commuter numbers are likely to fall appears prudent. Others, such as the proposal to slash the number of editorial staff on the MEN from 90 to 51, will almost certainly lead to a lower quality product even if pagination is also reduced (what’s the betting it’s not cut by the same percentage as that of job cuts, meaning the GMG journalists who keep their jobs end up filling more space). Likewise the proposal to close all outlying offices, which would see staff covering outlying areas such as Macclesfield and Accrington from central Manchester (or else filing stories from a rainlashed carpark in the middle of nowhere).

Last year’s accounts (pdf) reveal that GMG Regional, of which the Greater Manchester titles form a large part, made operating profits of £14.3m on revenues of £120.5m. Whilst this is likely to change significantly for the worse this year with advertising revenue dropping off further it is still a shame to see perfectly popular and profitable newspapers facing major cuts.

Sadly this comes down to the unique (in Britain) structure of the GMG. The Scott Trust exists to protect the Guardian and its journalism and as such other elements of the group will always bear the brunt when cuts are needed. Despite this, one can’t help but feel they risk killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

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