Trinity Mirror faces complaints that local sports coverage a victim of web-first focus on big football clubs

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The re-organisation of Trinity Mirror’s local newspapers newsrooms along web-first lines has led to claims there is now less coverage of smaller football clubs and cricket.

The claims have been made by a former sports editor on a group of weekly newspapers in Kent which were part of Local World and taken over by Trinity Mirror in November last year.

They have also been backed up by a journalist reader of the Brentwood Gazette, another former Local World title taken over by Trinity Mirror.

Jon Phipps was sports content editor of four former Local World titles in Kent until he took redundancy in June. He worked on the Canterbury Times, Dover Express, Folkestone Herald and Isle of Thanet Gazette.

He said on Twitter: “I feel the need to say a few things. But before I do, I need to point out that I have nothing bad to say about my former colleagues. I still count several of them as really good friends, and what has gone on is a million miles from their fault.

“But this week ‘Kent Live’ appeared and took over all the old paper websites. Although very late in the day, I think it makes sense. What doesn’t make sense, though, is the sport coverage. Or rather the complete lack of it. Charlton. Dover. That’s it.

“I had a brilliant time covering Margate FC and Ramsgate FC, but now they have no coverage. Online at least. I was expecting this and that is why I left. There are newsworthy things happening, but because thousands don’t flock online, they are left.”

He said: “I’m so sad that local journalism is becoming an endangered species in this quest for web traffic. Yes, sport in Kent can be hard, but jeez, to just ditch it? It’s absolute bloody madness. The beginning of the end.

“No coverage of Kent cricket either, due to the mantra of web being all important. And I just hate to see it all. Fair play to the guys sticking it out, they’re just doing what they are told to pay the bills. But I’m glad I’m not there anymore.”

The newsroom changes at former Local World titles have been accompanied by widespread cutbacks with a number of editors and senior journalists made redundant.

Four-time Local Press Awards reporter of the year Gareth Davies took to Twitter in July to condemn the way Trinity Mirror’s newsroom changes have effected his former title, the Croydon Advertiser.

He said that the print edition was now put together by sub-editors scraping content from online, and that reporters had no involvement in the print title. He also said that Trinity Mirror told reporters to focus on stories which will attract at least 1,000 website hits.

A journalist reader of the Brentwood Gazette told Press Gazette: “As is well known, part of Trinity Mirror’s web-first policy, the Brentwood Gazette (formerly local paper of the year) and I guess loads of others newly acquired are putting everything online first and filling the printed paper with nothing but online content from the previous seven days.

“I guess TM management figured most readers might not notice.

“However, they appear not to have thought about sport.

Because of clickbait demands, all the Gazette’s online sports coverage through the week appears to be dedicated to stories about West Ham (close to but not in the area covered by the paper).

“This means the three pages of sport in the printed Gazette (on sale at £1) are filled with nothing but these (now old) stories about the paper’s nearest premiership club.

“It also means there is now no coverage at all of any Brentwood sport. No football, no cricket, no nothing.

“As you can imagine it looks ludicrous. Staff are tearing their hair out. Readers baffled. Where’s the coverage of local cricket leagues, Brentwood Town pre-season etc..”If it’s happening on the Brentwood Gazette – suspect it’s happening elsewhere.

“No-one’s doubting the future’s digital – but does that have to mean no local sport in a paid for paper?”

Trinity Mirror declined to comment.

Comments

2 thoughts on “Trinity Mirror faces complaints that local sports coverage a victim of web-first focus on big football clubs”

  1. I was an avid reader of the “Isle of Thanet Gazette” in print and on-line. Since they fell into the hands of Local World it is obvious that the one and a half journalists now left in employment are working hard but are struggling to cover local stories, still less provide relevant comment on local issues. Jon Phipps fell foul of the same ludicrous cost cutting policies. The Gazette used to give good coverage of smaller clubs, based on good local knowledge and contacts. The good journalists, subs, and editors seem to have been replaced by machines supervised by something called a Brands Editor. Unfortunately this “Editor” has a very poor grasp of geography because the supposedly local news posted on the “Gazette” website read by us folk in Margate, in far East Kent, includes stories about Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, and towns in far West Kent – and sometimes items about Sussex. He does not know much about brands, either, by the look of it and does not reply to emails [one assumes he can write but one begins to wonder]. Content now includes little videos of such newsworthy incidents as a fire in a wheelie bin taken by a resident of a block of flats. We can no doubt look forward to shots of lads urinating against a wall in Chatham, in keeping with Local World’s brand values. All this is part of what the top brass of Local World no doubt think is a clever business strategy. Others may feel, as I do as a media consumer, that their “slash and burn” strategy is ridiculously short sighted and will end in tears.

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