Naturally I picked up a copy of the local newspaper, partly to see what was on the agenda locally and partly to satisfy my geeky urge to pore over the design and content of a product I hadn’t encountered before.
The weekly Carmarthen Journal is the oldest newspaper in Wales and part of the Local World group. It is edited by Emma Bryant, who was promoted to the top job in July, and produces editions for the town as well as surrounding communities.
I was impressed by the quality of the paper put out by Emma’s small editorial team, which included a decent mix of hard news reporting and nicely-written human interest pieces, but the thing that struck me most was the Journal’s treatment of community news.
At too many papers the community news is treated as something of an after thought, shovelled with as little effort as possible into pages at the back of book only to emerge as a wall of text that does little to encourage readers to linger on the page. But not at the Journal.
The community news is brought together in a pull-out called Journal Local and it is far from being simply a collection of parish council notices and nibs about the latest WI meeting. While this kind of nitty-gritty local detail is of course all there, it is arranged on well-designed pages alongside great pictures and strong stories – such as this yarn about cars being written off by high tides sweeping a car park – that would make the front of the book at many weekly papers.
I asked Emma to tell me about Journal Local and its place within the product. “Our Journal Local supplement is an easy to navigate pull-out full of hyperlocal news but also focusing on some wonderful stories happening at the very heart of our communities,” she said.
“We cover a vast area – most of West Wales – and being able to serve each of these very distinct communities is a challenge. We hope every reader feels they can turn to the Carmarthen Journal to find out exactly what is happening on their street and to feel part of the wider community too.”
It is heartening to see community news – often submitted by enthusiastic volunteers in towns and villages across the land – being given such a strong play by the Journal. Proudly putting it right at the heart of the product rather than hiding it away, separate to the ‘proper news’ being written by the staffers, is a fantastic way to demonstrate that smaller communities across the Journal’s huge patch are just as important to the paper as the market town from where it is produced.
And as a casual reader from outside the patch picking up the paper for the first time I found that the quality of the stories included among the announcements from the villages meant I spent much more time reading the community news pages – coming across the gems such as a village hall talk on ‘the lighter side of funeral directing’ as I went.
It would be great to see all local papers think a little more creatively about how they utilise the community news content flooding in from village correspondents. The team at the Journal prove that with a little thought it can become the spine around which a quality product is produced.
You can read more from Emma and the team on the Carmarthen Journal’s website.