Local paper review by Harry Mottram, March 26, 2020
With no reporters on the Cheddar Valley Gazette and those on the Mercury heavily restricted in comes as no surprise news is sparse in the two local newspapers.
The theme is coronavirus and how people are adapting. With no sport the Weston Mercury dedicates its back page to contact details of local shops as well as details of home deliveries from pubs and restaurants. Sporting organisations are mulling over calling it a day for the current season with both rugby and football almost certainly cancelled until next season.
Merv Colenutt though in the Gazette writes in depth about local football highlighting one of its problems – that of a lack of trained linesmen and women. Those left have to run the gauntlet he explains of a small number of aggressive spectators who shout at the officials with the result that they end up leaving the game. There’s a telling photo on the back page of the deserted entrance to Cheddar FC’s ground which sums up the situation at the end of the season.
The gazette leads on a proposal to lessen the misery of road closures this summer between Cheddar and Wedmore and Wedmore and Wells. However the coronavirus crisis leaves Bristol Water’s plans to dig up the roads in doubt. Likewise with the cancellation of Glastonbury Festival the suspension of town and parish meetings there is little to report so both papers resort to that tried and tested backup: the filler articles.
At least the Gazette has two decent articles: one from Maxine Irving on life under lockdown and the other, a picture spread by Marion McMullen on nursing which seems opportune considering the current situation.
The Mercury reports on North Somerset councillors ratifying the decision to put the brakes on the plans to expand Bristol Airport and pages and pages on how to cope with the all encompassing coronavirus outbreak.
There must be major concerns in all newspapers about their long term viability at local level. I’ve worked on and off for several titles for more than 20 years and witnessed their decline as advertising migrated online to Ebay and the likes. The websites of local papers are free which undermines the printed copies but without reporters the news is very thin meaning fewer people buy them. Tellingly there is an article in the Gazette warning of mass job losses locally due to the collapse in the economy brought on by the lockdowns. Sadly those jobs could include the handful of people who produce the same newspaper.
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