Digital chief rebuts ‘misguided’ claims over daily newspaper coverage

HiggersonClaims two thirds of all local authority districts are not covered by a daily newspaper are “misguided”, a digital publishing chief has said.

David Higgerson, left, has rebutted claims made in a study by King’s College, London, which found that 273 local authority districts out of a total of 406 had no daily local newspaper coverage.

The research was commissioned by the National Union of Journalists and published last week as part of its week-long Local News Matters campaign.

However, the Trinity Mirror Regionals digital publishing director says it was “wrong” of the study to suggest certain areas are not covered – using its presentation of how the North-West of England is presented as an example.

Districts shown as “not being served” by a daily on a map used in the research include Trafford and Bury, which are covered by the Manchester Evening News, and Wyre, served by Blackpool-based daily The Gazette.

On his personal blog, David wrote: “How each paper covers an area is a different matter. Some, such as the Lancashire Telegraph, have dedicated editions for some of the areas the maps suggest they don’t serve. Others, such as the Liverpool Echo, have increased their coverage of places such as St Helens in recent years.

“The MEN has always covered Trafford and Bury – but there will also be local weekly newspapers which cover those places in more depth. But to say they aren’t served is wrong.”

David also argued that the report had focused only on print circulation and failed to take online audiences into consideration.

He added: “The big gap in the NUJ’s report is online. It’s also a fundamental weakness of the King’s report, as it is based on print circulation alone. For example, the Liverpool Echo can reach up to 8pc of the St Helens population online everyday, which more than meets the print reach criteria the King’s report outlines. This is repeated across the country.

“Critics would say that digital reach is not proof of filling a democratic deficit, but truth be told, neither is print reach. What we do know online is exactly what people read. The mission at the company I work at (Trinity Mirror) is that we want to part of people’s everyday lives.

“The content strategy which emerged from that (which I helped create) is that we aim create meaningful relationships with people by providing them with information they are looking for so that they will listen to us when we have information we think they should be taking in.

“In an era of 20pc of people turning out to vote in local elections, building that relationship has never been more important.”