Still missing the Chron

A lot of my customers are still missing the Northampton Chronicle & Echo daily newspaper, well over a year on from when it closed. They feel one of the bastions of local democracy has closed down and crumbled away.

There's still something that looks vaguely like the old Chron which comes out once a week, costs £1.10p for a copy, and needs a wheelbarrow to carry it about. But it is stuffed with great advertising sections like Property and Motoring, and once you've pulled these out and ditched them you are left with more adverts, a bit of glitzy what's on, and lots of out-dated news from last week. In the Sports section you can read descriptions of matches that everybody has forgotten about by now.

Let's face it, you don't bother looking in the Property section unless you are looking to buy a property, and you don't bother with the Motoring section unless you are looking to buy a car. So these are two great chunks of the paper that most people pay for and never read.

Couple that with the fact that most of the news is necessarily out-dated, because the paper only appears once a week, and you see why its circulation has dropped drastically since it went into the weekly format. It still has a small regular readership, but my newsagent tells me that even these are gradually dropping off. Every week two or three more people ring up to cancel their Chronicle subscription, and the copies on display are soon well out of date and nobody buys them after the weekend. Since it went up from a £1 a copy to £1.10p, several more regulars have cancelled. This must be happening in other newsagents too, all over town.

My customers really miss the daily Chronicle. They still moan to me about it, and about what they miss most, which is continuity. The weekly Chron has no sense of continuity. When it was a daily you could follow local events day by day, follow the daily cut and thrust of the Letters page, read about which local politicians were accusing each other of being spivs doing shady deals, and read other interesting local news as it happened. You could find out what was on tomorrow that you might want to go to, and generally feel that you were keeping in touch with local events. Some people even tell me they miss the hatched and dispatched pages, too.

Personally I miss the sense of local democracy the daily paper gave. You could read a wide variety of views from day to day, see what local politicians were up to, and often see a display of shady faces from court proceedings to keep an eye open for. In the daily letters pages you could reply to someone straight away and see it published within a day or so, without the thread going cold. You can't do that in a weekly rag.

Another thing missing is the presence of the newspaper sellers around town. These added another dimension to the street life of the town, and many people even knew them by name. They could be relied upon to get the word on the street and pass it on, and you often learned things that never even appeared in the newspaper. Their daily paper selling activities made the streets appear busier too, all adding to a more colourful scene than what we have today.

So what did I say last year: "I'll guess the weekly Chron will last about two years, stuffed with adverts and too big to read properly, with a standard of journalism no better than at present. It won't sell enough to keep going, so the producers will put the boot in quietly, and say it's going onto the web entirely now, we'll see you there. I hope I'm wrong, of course". A year on, I still hope I'm wrong. We shall see....

Follow my daily Tweets: