Opinion: Shropshire Star – Delivering Local News?

The Shropshire Star Newsgathering
David Ross’ photo and a copy of the Shropshire Star

The Shropshire Star is paper that locals love to hate. I’d be the first to admit that that newspapers have been fighting for their lives for a good few years, struggling for advertising revenue in the key sectors of property, job vacancies and motoring and The Shropshire Star is no exeption. The circulation figures have been slowly sliding down to 50,000 from around 90,000 ten years ago, the number of regional editions also reducing as profits are hit.  Sounds bad huh?  Well I happen to like the Star.  I like that we have a local paper that isn’t a free, ad-laden excuse for a newspaper and I have supported it through buying adverts and copies.  The business section on Tuesdays is a must read. I don’t like that it has a near monopoly on local news in the area.

I’ll also admit that I’m not a journalist.  I don’t know how they get their stories, or what effort goes into writing them although the twitter accounts of some of their staff are very insightful and give us some clues as to the pressures they are under.  The excellent Ann Clarkson and the entertaining David Burrows are ‘must follows’ for Shropshire people. A full list of the staff on twitter can be found here: https://en.twitter.com/ShropshireStar/shropshire-star-staff

I also know that there have been a few instances where their chief sneak has been the social network, Twitter.  This peaked on New Years Day, where a feature appeared on their website about policing on New Years Eve. The picture accompanying the feature is a shot straight from the paper, where each tweet is sequenced in alternating blue and white pull-outs, effectively printing out the tweetstream from Supt. Tozer, on duty that night.  In previous years, a reporter would have been on duty, and written a feature first-hand filled with words that painted pictures in our minds eye, rather than 140 character post-it notes from a busy copper, as interesting as they were on twitter.

It’s not the first time that the Shropshire Star has done this.  In December 2012, during a spate of car crashes in Telford, one particularly photogenic crash was snapped and uploaded to Twitter by David Ross, who works nearby.  I asked if I could use the pic for Telford Live, and David agreed, sending another photo from a different angle.  The Shropshire Star twitter account also contacted David to ask where it was.  The following day, 22nd December, I was intrigued when David posted a question to Shropshire Star, asking why his photo and quotes from his twitter feed appeared on page 7 without his knowledge.  I didn’t see a response although I’ve looked for one. David was concerned his tweet comment was taken out of context and made him look a bit daft.  I’m not sure it did, but I’m not David and he probably has more street cred than I do.

Without doubt there was a story there, there had been three crashes on the same corner in recent months.  Why didn’t the Star send a reporter out to get the full story, and take it’s own picture?  Has the skill of journalism reduced to copying and pasting from twitter? Has downloading a camera phone picture from the social networks negated a need for staff photographers?   If this is the case, then I fear for the future of our local Star. Fears, I hope, that are unfounded.

What do you think of the Shropshire Star? Leave your thoughts below.  Comments are unmoderated as long as they are legal!


9 thoughts on “Opinion: Shropshire Star – Delivering Local News?

  • January 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    For the record someone from the Shropshire Star contacted me by direct message and apologised for using the tweet without permission, which I was happy with. When I talked to them they said that they are currently drawing up a social media policy and would mention the incident when they get round to doing so.

    One of my friends had a similar experience last year with a story about overcrowded trains where one of her photos was used without her knowledge, which is why I asked the question. Seems to be a lot of this lazy journalism around nowadays.

  • January 21, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    The Star like its circulation has gone downhill the website being worse, too many national political comments in favour of the of the goverment its like the daily mail at times obviously the editors are tories. leave it to the national meadia and local news to local publications… not bought a star for years wouldnt miss it if it went bump.

  • February 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    A really interesting post that really escapes the traditional ‘dead tree Press’ cul-de-sacs.

    Confession: I’m not from Shropshire but I’m aware of the Shropshire Star and can probably say that substitute most regional titles and communities into this and you’ll get a similar answer.

    I spent eight years working for a regional daily newspaper ending in the year Facebook was launched and have been a press officer for a similar amount of time this year so I can see both sides.

    For my own part, I think there’s a fundamental misjudgement of blogs by newspapers. Institutionally, they’re very competitive places seeking dog-eat-dog advantage over the opposition. The art of ‘lifting’ a story from another source is pretty commonplace. Either wholesale or as a tip-off. None of these fit that well in the social web with it’s spirit of linking back, retweeting and sharing.

    Instead of seeing bloggers as competition the enlightened news executive – and this direction would need to come from the top – they really need to see them in the same light as the village correspondent or the sports club secretary submitting content from the heart of the community but not looking to carve out a media empire.

    Back when I was a kid the Stafford Newsletter used to do just this. Five or six stories aggregated from Colwich, Abbots Bromley and Haughton. Each taken from someone in the village and acknowledged.

    It’s interesting that the Shropshire Star would be looking to develop a social media policy that gets around the problems of tweets being taken without credit.

    But I would guard against the line of ‘lazy journalism.’ It’s actually quite the opposite in news roooms where three reporters are doing the jobs of eight.

    Interestingly, there was a tweet-up organised by Sentinel staff in Stoke-on-Trent which saw people meet-up, connecty and chat which in effect seeks to build bridges between the online community and newsrooms.

    These questions need to be cracked by news organisations that aim to be around in 12 months or 12 years.

  • February 18, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks for your comment Dan. I really feel for the hard pressed and dwindling news teams at local papers. Incidentally, the Shropshire Star have just launched their own recruitment business. I’m guessing that many agencies look online & job centres for staff these days. The ‘Lazy Journalism’ line was from a commenter.

  • April 7, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Readers will be interested to know that a new editor is taking over at the Shropshire Star (on the 6th May) – His name is Martin Wright and I for one will be urging him to include a lot more local news! It’s important they reflect on the local news and campaign to improve things in our county.

  • April 7, 2013 at 9:26 am

    I run shropshirebowls.tk a bowlin website for Shropshire, in the past I was contacted by the Star after I had used one of their stories and was threatened with legal action! In last few weeks posts have been copied word for word and used in the paper!

  • May 16, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    A common phrase I have heard is ‘the Star never lets the truth get in the way of a story’. My own experience with them is not good either but more about favouritism/nepotism and scheduling than a truth issue.

  • May 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    I never buy this rag. I have read copies in the past and not been impressed. The sports news seems to be tattle sourced on clubs fab based forums.
    My biggest gripe is what ever the leading story is no matter how serious or trivial, there always has to be a link to shropshire.
    Lazy reporting by a company that has no competition. Hence why circulation numbers have halved.


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