MP laments 'real loss for Cambridge' after daily drops decade of stories from its website

The daily Cambridge News has lost a public archive of stories covering more than a decade after owners Trinity Mirror opted not to transfer its old web pages to a new website.

MP for the city, Daniel Zeichner, said it was a “real loss for Cambridge”.

He added: “In the digital age we have all come to expect that the information will be available for us. The local newspaper is a key source of information for local people which is why they are so important.”

In October the Cambridge News relaunched its website which it claims is “more user friendly, has faster loading times, and is fully responsive” helping boost monthly unique browsers by 32 per cent.

A spokesperson said the move involved “changing the content management system”.

In explaining the decision not to transfer the archive of stories across to the new site they said: “We have finite resources and investing in an improved site was our priority.

“Different formats and layout means that without significant work per article, archived content would have been hard to read and scruffy to look at.

“Less than 1 per cent of readers read content more than four months old, but the archive is not lost – it still exists and is accessible to our reporters.”

Press Gazette understands journalists at the News are able to access the archive through a back office search function but that this is not public facing.

It is believed stories have been regularly uploaded to the website since the first digital editor joined in 2007 but there has been a Cambridge News website for at least 15 years.

A former senior editor at the News told Press Gazette the collection of articles had represented a “social history of Cambridge” that was now lost to the public.

They said: “For the last decade there must be thousands and thousands of articles on there and millions and millions of worlds which obviously together create a social history of Cambridge, of life in Cambridge and Cambridgeshire in the early 21st Century.”

“With the political stuff I would think there was some democratic duty to have that available. I think the politics and crime and those kinds of things should be there for people to see.

“The Cambridge News has been going since 1888. It’s got a long history of being the paper of record for the city.

“Each newspaper owner has a right to pursue their own commercial strategy, but they are also the custodians of a quite important democratic research and that comes with a certain amount of responsibility.”

They added: “It makes me sad because we put so much time and effort into the website – especially because, like everybody, we were supposed to be pursuing a digital-first policy.

“All that time uploading millions of words to the website. It’s an important resource and it seems crazy not to have it on there.”

It is understood an archivist had worked for the News until about five years ago and that there is a library of archived papers on-site at its offices in Milton, Cambridge.

Former Local World title the Cambridge News transferred to Trinity Mirror when it bought out the publisher in 2015 in a deal worth £220m.

Other former Local World titles taken over by Trinity Mirror are also believed to have lost their online archives.

It has a average daily circulation of 12,488 according to ABC. Online figures for February put the number of unique daily visitors to its website at 51,800.

Comments

4 thoughts on “MP laments 'real loss for Cambridge' after daily drops decade of stories from its website”

  1. “Hard to read and scruffy to look at” is preferable to the archive not being accessible at all.

    Cambridge is an international nerve centre for technological development: if Trinity Mirror is not prepared to develop its resources, surely an academic body could rescue/re-format the data.

  2. Under 1% of the alleged 51,800 unique daily visitors is still up to 500-odd souls per day, extrapolating to hundreds of thousands per year. It seems a vicious circle: if the website and archive are hard to consult or read, no wonder usage figures are falling. This retrogressive step seems to typify Trinity Mirror’s uncaring, money-crazed, Mirror-heritage-besmirching ethos. Hopefully, visitors will still be able to make appointments to view the internal archive, or consult paper records – though the latter format is obviously far more time-consuming, unless efficiently indexed.

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