An Essex council has complained that the social media pages of the now-defunct Harlow Star newspaper often share negative stories about incidents in other areas, saying they “don’t help” its efforts to promote the town.
Harlow Council fears the headlines on these Facebook and Twitter posts can give readers the impression the incidents happened in Harlow, raising concerns over the “impact this could have on the town’s image”.
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Publisher Reach closed the free weekly Harlow Star at the end of January, saying it had become unsustainable due to the “continued decline in local print advertising”.
It said stories from the town of Harlow would continue to be covered by journalists on the county-wide website Essex Live, based in Chelmsford, while the title’s Facebook and Twitter accounts would remain active.
“This Facebook page will continue to be the number one source of information for those living in the town and the surrounding area,” the Star’s page said at the time.
“The team behind the Star look forward to bringing you the latest breaking news and big stories from the town for many years to come.”
But, Harlow Council has now raised concerns over the way the Star’s social media accounts share stories from Essex Live that cover crimes and other incidents from areas outside the town.
At the time of writing, a reader would have had to go back 13 posts on the Harlow Star’s Facebook page, or 12 on its Twitter account, to find one with a direct connection to Harlow, although many of the previous stories would have had wide appeal across Essex.
Representatives from Essex Live and Harlow Council have agreed to meet within the next week to discuss the issue.
A Harlow Council spokesperson said: “We want to work with all media to promote Harlow and a meeting with Essex Live will take place shortly to talk about how we can work together following the demise of the Harlow Star newspaper.
“There are concerns about the Harlow Star social media channels linking to stories that are not about Harlow, for example, crime and incidents in London and other areas in the country.
“Since the Star newspaper ceased publication, the Harlow Star social media channels have remained, but very rarely are the stories about Harlow. The posts can give the impression that these incidents have occurred in Harlow itself.
“If someone were to just read the headlines of the posts it would appear to them that there are more incidents happening in the town than there actually are.
“We have been picking up concerns on social media from residents, including a local school headteacher, about the number of non-Harlow related stories and the impact this could have on the town’s image.”
On Twitter, the council’s official account said on Friday that stories being shared through the Harlow Star pages. which are not about the town. “don’t help” its efforts to promote the area alongside the Discover Harlow project.
It added: “Sometimes people need and want to know about things happening in other places and share these with family and friends, but there needs to be a balance.
“We all have a role to play in talking up our town so hopefully we can work together to try and change this.”
A Reach spokesperson confirmed a meeting is taking place between Essex Live and Harlow Council in the next week, but declined to comment further.
Michael Casey, editor of independent website Your Harlow, pointed this week to an article in the final print edition of the Star which told readers stories would continue to be covered on Essex Live.
“We look forward to continuing to celebrate Harlow’s rich history, culture and news for many years to come,” the article said.
Casey said: “Can they point to where, since that date, they have continued to celebrate Harlow’s rich history, culture and news?
“Since that date, we have published over 300 stories and attended council meetings, community events, sports event and theatre productions.”