Change will always generate a mixture of reactions. Whether it’s altering the times of the local bus or the way you part your hair – someone will be affected or have an opinion. Blimey, even my cat registered his disgust when I swapped his food for a cheaper variety. A few years ago, many Dalesman readers were up in arms when it was decided to change the binding of the magazine from stitched to solid spine – ‘I could no longer read it in the bath’ said one irate Yorkshireman… no, I couldn’t work that one out either – nevertheless, we bowed to reader pressure and changed back. So I am interested to learn of Dales people’s reaction to the decision by that last bastion of local newspaper tradition, the Craven Herald, to switch from broadsheet to tabloid and remove adverts from the front page.
Such changes are never made on a whim. Newspapers are businesses and every decision has to make sound commercial sense (take note, cat). Presumably the idea is to attract new readers and advertisers with a fresh presentation… and good luck to them; life in the printed news media has never been so tough. Packaging the same material in a different format isn’t going to address all the problems in the newspaper industry however. Cost cutting over the last twenty years or so has created gaps in the local news gathering process – no longer are there enough reporters roaming their patches, talking to residents and gathering gossip. Experienced sub editors and proof readers with their local knowledge and personal contact with the writers have either been made redundant or been shipped off to isolated head offices. Editors are stuck behind a desk all day,  often based miles from their heartland, allowed little involvement with their community. And of course the internet and 24-hour TV and radio news services have severely hit the popularity of newspapers.
The first tabloid edition of the Craven Herald is an easy read – neat and tidy and far from being brash or sensationalist which many traditionalists might have feared. I hope the doubters will grow to accept the changes and help maintain this valuable asset for the Craven community. As that astute Yorkshireman and Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said: ‘He who rejects change is the architect of decay.  The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.’

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2 Comments

  1. Paul Booth

    The quirkyness of the Craven Herald should have been one of its strong points. I think the real issue is whether all newspapers should become free sheets and rely solely on advertising. The Evening Standard, arguably the best evening newspaper in the United Kingdom, is now a free sheet and has doubled circulation from 300,000 to 600,000. It will survive and hopefully prosper on adverts. I believe nearly all local newspapers (and perhaps nationals) will switch to that business model eventually. Except the venerable and much admired Dalesman of course. That Yorkshire gem is sacrosanct.

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  2. Jim Johnson

    Regarding your blog I believe that historical publications such as The Dalesman and the Craven Herald should always try to keep their unique identities – and be proud of them. But I agree that it is also important that standards are kept high.

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