LAST POST: My Reggie Kray story and the future of local news

Okay, so should we start to think of a world without local newspapers?

Or at any rate a place where local newspapers are no longer the only show in town?

Go to Cannock in Staffordshire and you’re closer than you think.

Gone or retreated in the past four years are the Rugeley Post, Cannock Mercury and the Rugeley Mercury.

Another of them, The Chase Post, closed this week as 45 jobs were cut from Midlands titles.

As a young man I spent some time on work experience on the Post learning the ropes.

Mike Lockley, its editor on closure,  was in charge when I was there and recently celebrated 25-years at the helm.

A dynamo of a man powered by his love of a news story he was capable of a generosity of spirit to those looking to find a start in the industry. A generation of staff and work experience people have him to thank. Me included.

So do the school children who saw pink custard back on the menu after some Mike Lockley-fired Chase Post campaigning.

I have him to thank for my first front page by-line. A piece on a Cannock musician whose speculative letter to Reggie Kray resulted in an offer of money from the gangland kingpin and an offer of unspecified ‘help.’

“I was a bit worried when Reggie Kray wrote to me and offered me money,” the musician told me.

“What if he wanted a favour doing? And have you seen his writing?”

He was right. The note handed me  looked like it had been written by a left handed 10-year-old and was signed chillingly ‘Your friend, Reggie Kray.’

Of course, Reggie only became ‘gangland kingpin’ in the stumbling copy that Mike re-wrote. My version was far more boring. But the cutting helped get me a job.

Mike was also an award winning columnist. His piece announcing closure is typical. Wry, amusing and self depracating.

In a piece written a few days before closure was announced Mike celebrated 25 years in charge by writing that ‘a town without a newspaper is a town without a heart.’

So what of the future of news?

The excellent Dave Briggs, who does things with the web in local government, once rolled his eyes at me on this subject.

“The thing is Dan,” he said. “There really is nothing in life as boring as the future of news debate.”

In a sense he’s right.

Because out in the real world it’s not really an issue.

Why?

Because people are finding their own ways of getting news whether its from across the web, Facebook, Twitter or a hyperlocal blog.

Think of the now dead Football Final. As a kid the paper shop was full of blokes at 5.30pm waiting for the Pink to be delivered because they’d missed James Alexander Gordon read the final scores on Grandstand on BBC1.

If football scores have been sorted then what of news?

I’m not sure there is a golden bullet answer. As Alastair Campbell told the Express & Star which still circulates in Cannock, the news agenda today is far more fractured.

Hyperlocal blogs like Connect Cannock are part of the future, there’s no doubt about that.

So are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn streams targeted at micro audiences around a library, a piece of open space or a service area.

So, what does this mean for local government comms teams?

Once again, the need to think about what you are doing and how much resource you point at the web.

Ex-journalists have often been hired in local government press offices because they know how to write and package information for newspapers.

Many of them are changing with the changing landscape.

But as the social web grows how long is it before a blogger gets hired by a local government comms team for their ability to communicate using WordPress, Facebook and Cover It Live?

Picture credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Krays.jpg


One Comment on “LAST POST: My Reggie Kray story and the future of local news”

  1. […] far from Walsall and an excellent post on professional journo-turned-press-officer Dan Slee’s excellent blog as well as recent chatter on twitter has prompted me to revisit what is once more a hot […]


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