Local papers are appalling, says Telegraph assistant editor

An assistant editor at Telegraph Media Group has said local papers are ‘mostly appalling’and face a ‘mining-style’death.

He added papers were producing ‘dross”, and said management was to blame.

Justin Williams, formerly of the Kent Messenger, Daily Mail, and Sunday Telegraph, wrote on his personal blog, countervalue.com: ‘Andy Burnham’s proposal to let the BBC come to the aid of Britain’s dying local newspaper industry is merely the latest demonstration of how little the culture secretary understands this country’s media – both digital and non-digital.

‘It is hard to imagine being able to come up with anything less considered and more poorly thought through than this. The problem with most local newspapers – in both their print and web forms – is the lack of unique, meaningful content.

‘Readers are deserting the local press in their tens of thousands because the decline in the service being offered has become an unstoppable descent: circulations and revenues fall while online growth stalls so quality is cut leading to further sales and revenue falls leading to further cutbacks. There is seemingly no way out of this spiral.

‘If Britain’s (on the whole) appalling local press produced that much of worth, what does Burnham think handing it over to the BBC would do for its prospects online?

‘How would allowing Google News to classify this stuff as duplicate content help? And how exactly would reproducing a few semi-local videos from the Beeb boost the uniques at borcestshirebilge.co.uk?

‘Those in our industry who are starting to make something of the move to the web have, at least, discovered one thing: that uniques, commercial success and user-generated content all follow when you publish your own high-value unique content and open the site up to its audience.

‘You cannot dress up your own dross or anybody else’s and pretend that it is anything other than dross. No amount of multimedia, polls or hourly video news updates will disguise that your two untrained reporters are shovelling out press releases.”

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