Croydon Advertiser
The Croydon Advertiser.
Croydon Advertiser/Gareth
Davies/Twitter


Gareth Davies, a four-time winner of local reporter of the year
for the Croydon Advertiser, has argued that his local newspaper
has become a “mess” after it was taken over by Trinity Mirror
last year.

In a lengthy article for British journalism blog
SubScribe
, Davies —who left earlier this summer — described
how the newsroom at the Croydon Advertiser and its sister titles
has changed since its owner Local World was sold for £220 million
($293 million) in October 2015.

He claimed:

  • Reporters were required to go
    “cold turkey” on print and only write online stories, meaning
    the weekly newspaper is now dominated by repurposed web
    content.
  • The worst example of this is
    a double-page spread consisting of two clickbait listicles, “13
    things you’ll know if you are a Southern Rail passenger” and “9
    things you didn’t know about Blockbuster” (pictured
    above)
  • Journalists have been set
    quotas for the number of stories they have to write on a daily
    basis, while their performance is measured in clicks rather
    than quality journalism.
  • New shift patterns mean some
    reporters are working 12 days in a row and one member of staff
    has calculated that they are earning 50p (66 cents) less than
    the London Living Wage.
  • Journalists have been told
    that if they do not think a story will get 1,000 page views
    then they should seriously consider whether it is worth
    covering.
  • In the quest for clicks,
    reporters have turned to live blogging the opening of a
    Wetherspoons pub and a KFC.

Trinity Mirror has said the claims were “baffling” and described
a “thriving” atmosphere at the Croydon Advertiser, where staff
are positive about the future. The full statement is below.

The blog followed
Davies voicing his views on Twitter
, where he tweeted a
picture from the latest edition of the Croydon Advertiser — the
first to be put together without the input of reporters.

“This week’s paper is a mess. Little to no thought has gone into
its design. The story count is low and photographs have been used
far beyond their usual size in order to compensate,” he said.

Davies argued that the Local World newspapers are “trapped” in a
“race to the bottom.” He added that the problems at the company
are indicative of wider issues in local newspapers, meaning this
form of journalism is “probably beyond saving” in its traditional
form.

Neil Benson, Trinity Mirror’s regional editorial director, said
in a statement:

“The culture at the Croydon Advertiser, particularly since Gareth
left and we introduced the new structure, has been one of
positivity. In fact the Croydon Advertiser is thriving in the new
structure and has had its best print performance for years. Some
journalists are up for that change of pace; others are not.

“The idea that Trinity Mirror is hell-bent on destroying the
media industry is incomprehensible. Nobody cares more about the
local media industry in the UK or has more of an interest in the
it succeeding than Trinity Mirror. The changes we make are about
achieving exactly that – ensuring that there is a future for
these newsbrands.

“People don’t consume news like they used to, newsbrands have to
evolve to compete and the industry has to adapt or die. The only
way we can do this is by building a strong, local and engaged
audience. Yes, we are obsessed with audience, because without it
we don’t exist.

“This means adapting to the way the world, consumers and media
have changed by covering broader content on top of just news and
sport, presenting content in different ways and embracing digital
and new ways of doing journalism.

“It also means having a newsroom with the right structure, tools
and skills to deliver that, but within the financial constraints
necessary as the revenue model changes. We won’t apologise for
operating a business in a prudent and professional way.

“As publishers the country and world over are realising, you have
to make a profit to survive and you have to have an audience of
significant scale. Without an audience there is no sustainable
future.”