Saturday, 15 May 2010

Highlights of the Local Heroes conference

Had intended to go to the Local Heroes conference with two other former Northern Echo editors Allan Prosser and David Kernek yesterday. But, as is my lot, I ended up in Howden running a managing change course for Northcliffe's North-East titles. Allan and David still went though and I am grateful for Allan's snapshot of the day. 

On the 8.27 out of Waterloo to Hampton Wick and Strawberry Hill and wondering what John Betjeman would do with these names in a rhyme scheme. It's a glorious English morning, and a Cup Final weekend and my daughter's birthday to look forward to. But as an aperitif I'm off to Kingston University's Local Heroes conference (cue the Mark Knopfler soundtrack) to see the future. Arrive in Kingston, another British town that's been sacrificed on the altar of the motor car, thinking that Betjeman would have a few choice words to say about the town centre redevelopment. A good conference organised by Press Gazette and Kingston University with a fair representation of Old China Hands and webheads and a bravura performance from two old-stagers on different sides of the political spectrum - Eric Gordon of the Camden New Journal and Sir Ray Tindle. Here are the quick pointers from the day:

1) Use ultra-local blogging to make local authorities and corporations more accountable. Things get done quicker when they are made visible.
William Perrin of

2) There is a huge seam of stories which don't see the light of day in the local Press.
James Hatts, founder the news website London SE1

3) Local website editors must live in the areas they are covering.
Sheila Prophet, part of the South West London local news network Neighbour Net.

4) Editors perform better when they own the business and concentrate on developing content, trust and value for advertisers.
Mike Dickerson of Community Times, a network of 150 local magazines.

5) The ultra local sector is currently worth £30m annually with a page yield of £200.
Jason Mawer of Oxbury Media Services

6) Newspapers now devote 60% fewer staff hours to local authority reporting and there has been a 35% increase in the use of press releases. Starting salaries on council-run newspapers include £31,152 (East End Life) and £33,994 (Hammersmith and Fulham News). Starting salary for a local reporter £12,000 (
James Morrison, senior lecturer, Kingston University

7) The PA pilot project for providing a service of coverage of local authorities is likely to be based on a group of six unitary authorities. Its editorial service will be independent of any national funding, free to all and will provide training for a future generation of journalists.
Tony Johnston, Head of Press Association Training

8) The secret of running an independent newspaper is to keep it egalitarian, the more local the better and to look into every corner of the title's existence. User-generated content must meet the tests of law, responsibility and ethics.
Eric Gordon, owner/proprietor of the Camden New Journal

9) Traditional advertising is more lucrative for a town's retailers than going online. Local weeklies are going to live, not die; expand, not contract; flourish, not wither.
Sir Ray Tindle

10) Smaller papers will fill the void left by the big groups with their centralised subbing who don't understand what market they're in.
Nigel Lowther, co-owner of the independent Cleethorpes Chronicle

11) Big groups focus too much on their bottom line rather than their newspapers.
Betty Drummond, managing director of Champion Media

12) Daily newspapers can't deliver information to a business audience quickly enough.
David Parkin, former Yorkshire Post Business Editor whose has 37,000 registered users in Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, sends out 750,000 emails a month and is expected to make £1m

13) Individualised newspapers ally the best of the print medium to the power of direct marketing.
Wanja Oberhof, proprietor of the revolutionary Berlin newspaper Niiu which aggregates content from dozens of partner publishers and 250 online sources and delivers a customised newspaper retailing between €1.20 and €1.80. 42% of its readership is aged between 19 and 29

14) A good hyperlocal website needs both professional journalists and bloggers.
Darren Thwaites, Evening Gazette, Middlesbrough

15) Online video is good for a) raw, breaking news coverage and emotion b) In-depth story telling
Multi-media journalist Adam Westbrook

The debate "It's time to end the Web first free-for-all" proposed by Steve Dyson and Anita Syrett and opposed by Nick Turner and Darren Thwaites was overwhelmingly defeated. This correspondent voted for, and may have been the only one!

Other reports on the conference can be found here:

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