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news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Good news or crime porn? Why Greenwich Time exists

with 4 comments

“We are tightening up the rules on council publicity, so that taxpayers’ money cannot be wasted on town hall Pravdas – the likes of Labour’s Greenwich Time and East End Life – which have been unfairly putting the squeeze on independent local papers.” – Eric Pickles, Conservative Home, 24 February.

Greenwich Time is dismal propaganda – in that, the communities secretary is right. But its existence has as much to do with market failure as the desire of Greenwich Council to control the news agenda. The owners of the two freesheets which claim to serve the borough are doing a good enough job of strangling their titles without any help from anyone else.

Exhibit A – this week’s Greenwich Time, and this week’s Greenwich edition of the News Shopper.

On your left, a cheery photo of Plumstead boy Tinie Tempah doing good at the Brit Awards alongside (potentially) good news about a local rail project. On your right, a grisly story (bought from elsewhere) about a murder in Charlton that happened nine months ago but has only just gone to trial. I expect the News Shopper isn’t hoping for an interview with the poor victim’s family once the trial is over.

Which is the most appealling front page, the good news or the gruesome crime porn?

It’s worth pointing out that the lead stories on pages 2, 3 and 7 of the News Shopper are also about murders or murder inquiries, in Downham, Sydenham and Catford, none of which are in the borough of Greenwich, but appear in a paper with “Greenwich Borough News Shopper” on its masthead. Clearly if it bleeds in Lewisham or Greenwich, it leads. There’s a letter inside from Lewisham’s deputy mayor complaining about Nationwide’s branch closures – but only referring to those in Lewisham and Catford. It’s easy to see why Greenwich’s leadership might want to redress the balance a little, both in terms of positive reporting and in coverage relevant to their borough.

Incidentally, despite the company being hugely profitable, the News Shopper’s parent group, Newsquest, is today asking staff to volunteer for redundancy across its London titles.

But what about Greenwich borough’s other newspaper, the Mercury?

Exhibit B: The Greenwich edition of the Mercury.

The front of the Mercury – an ad for a BMW dealer. Not as appealing as a beaming Tinie Tempah.

Those who haven’t tossed the paper in the bin, though, will get what’s probably the week’s most important story in Greenwich borough, the GPs who will be taking over the area’s £500m health budget under government reforms. The story is also in Greenwich Time, but isn’t in the News Shopper at all.

But the wraparound ad makes the paper look cheap and nasty – even though the reporting in it far, far outstrips its rivals. Media commentators like Roy Greenslade fawn all over Mercury owner Sir Ray Tindle for his supposed commitment to local journalism, but he’s done nothing of the sort in south London, where the Mercury publishes what’s effectively a single edition across three boroughs, save for differing front pages (hence no mention of the Lewisham cuts row in the Greenwich edition) and the odd inner page. In reality he’s killing the Mercury by allowing it to look so cheap and crap, and by running it on a shoestring.

As for distribution, I haven’t had a regular delivery of the Mercury or the News Shopper in about eight or nine years. I picked up the Mercury while in Blackheath Village Library (a Lewisham borough library with a pile of Greenwich borough papers, so no news of that library’s closure…) yesterday. There was a great untouched pile of News Shoppers in the lobby of a mate’s block of flats last night, so I nabbed one.

Meanwhile, I get Greenwich Time most weeks (in fact, me and my upstairs neighbour get three copies between the two of us – lucky us).

So, propaganda aside… can you really blame Greenwich Council for having its own weekly paper, if this is the state of the printed media in its borough?

Spin off Greenwich Time, keep it and reform it, even, but on this evidence, it’s not just Greenwich Council who are the only irresponsible newspaper publishers around here.

4 Responses

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  1. Ooooh, heaven forbid that the Mercury and News Shopper tell people what his actually happening in their area. Or course these papers have ‘good news’ stories. But they are dealing with the reality of life in London. The GT lead story has been covered in all the nationals, so what is the point in reprinting it? Wouldn’t it be a better idea for the council to to trying to improve services than re-writing celeb stories?

    percy lamour

    25 February, 2011 at 1:25 pm

  2. “Good news” stories in the News Shopper – a puff piece for the Ferrier Estate redevelopment, something about new homes in Downham. That’s about it. In fact, the only other page lead which isn’t about crime is someone complaining about mould.

    The Mercury gets the balance better, but ruins it by hiding its paper inside wraparound ads and by neglecting to distribute the paper properly.

    I thnk you’re right the Tinie Tempah splash in GT, which I mentioned a couple of days ago.

    Darryl

    25 February, 2011 at 1:37 pm

  3. THe GT is just a waste of paper pure and simple.

    rather than informing and reporting properly on the cuts and what they really mean to the community they punt the idea we should tell them our great celebration ideas for the olympics or the royal wedding.

    this is journalistically akin to sticking fingers in their ears and going “lalalalalala” when someone is telling them something they dont want to hear.

    In the past it’s just been a photo opportunity for our fat leader to get his ugly mug in the paper as many times an issue as possible.

    Still, give 6 months to a year of the cuts having bitten hard and there will be plenty more crime and murder stories, social unrest depravation and injustice as the already vulnerable and at risk dispossessed, excluded, ignored and sold out by the fat cats in the community try to cope living in our wonderful Big Society in the “Royal Borough”

    Watch costs to the NHS, social services and policing
    soar. who pays, we all do. Vote these idiots out at the next opportunity.

    Mark E Moon

    28 February, 2011 at 4:42 pm

  4. [...] the idea that there’s a thriving local newspaper scene waiting to take up the slack is laughable. A Greenwich Council press release about housing benefit would have to compete with one from [...]


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