Thursday, June 1, 2006
Weekly newspapers provide precious moments
I have come to the conclusion that being ‘top dog’ is over-rated.
It might be one thing if you are Donald Trump, but it is quite another when you get landed with being in charge because your boss has gone on holiday.
At the moment my boss, the editor, is in the second week of an annual two-week summer break.
That means I am ultimately repsonible for ensuring that, during this period, the newspaper goes to press on time, that all the pages are well done and that we don’t get sued for any mistakes.
Mind you, it sometimes seems that ‘newspaper’ is entirely the wrong term - ‘circus’ might be more appropriate!
Yeah, sure, being the big cheese has some advantages - although loads of extra cash isn’t one of them! True, I get to have the last word on who does what and which stories and photographs will get used, although not usually without a bit of wrangling over it with the reporter or photographer concerned first.
And, of course, on a weekly rural paper you have to balance what you as a professional journalist thinks should be in the paper with what the readers expect from their local paper.
So while I might personally think a certain local event is not that interesting, I always have to bear in mind that for possibly a great many other people it could well be the most important date in the year for them.
And as summer marches on, we have coverage of dozens of festivals, agricultural shows, dog shows, horse events, and charity fund-raisers to find space for, as well as all the hard news stories.
The old saying that ‘you can’t please all of the people, all of the time’ certainly holds true in the world of newspapers. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and gently, but firmly, explain to someone that their hand-written report of 6,000 words on their holiday trip to some foreign resort did not warrant an entire page.
But that, I always think is the beauty of local weekly newspapers like ours and like The South Reporter. We are trusted with this sort of news by people because it is important to them and they trust us.
The national press in this country is often treated with more suspicion, especially when it comes to those tabloid publications we call ‘redtops’ due to their red masthead colours.
While wedding photos, college graduation reports and a few paragraphs about a local baking event might not set the international media alight, they are precious moments to those involved and you have to take just as much care with these as you do with some breaking front page news splash.
That is something I always try and instill into my trainee cub reporters. Naturally, most of them are kicking their heels to get trained and then leave the Borders for a job on a big, national paper.
But, as I always say to them, no matter to what dizzying heights that their subsequent careers take them, nowhere will they have a more direct impact on - or relevance to - the lives of ordinary people than when they worked on a weekly local paper.
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