RIP the Croydon Advertiser – I can’t say that I am surprised

By - Monday 1st August, 2016

Jonny Rose carries out the post mortem after Gareth Davies’ announcement of the Croydon Advertiser’s untimely demise

Photo by Nick Brimacombe, used with permission.

“It is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”
words inspired by Finley Peter Dunne

A year ago, I wrote a piece called ‘Did the general election just prove that Croydon’s media doesn’t matter?‘, in which my basic thesis was that nobody cares about local newspapers, and those that do ‘care’ don’t do anything useful based on what they’ve read so there is no point to local newspapers.

It’s sad, then, to see my thesis re-confirmed with the downward trend of Croydon’s local news continuing to the point where Friday’s Croydon Advertiser carried Buzzfeed-esque listicles on consecutive pages.

The Croydon Advertiser‘s former Chief Journalist Gareth Davies took to Twitter on the same day to articulate his frustrations with the way the local newspaper is going. It’s an incredibly elucidating read and his rant can be read in full here.

How did we get here?

For those at the back of the class who have not being paying attention, here’s what has happened to our newspapers:

  • The internet has democratised how information (news) moves around

  • Established news brands no longer monopolise attention or guarantee an audience

  • New media entrants that compete with established news brands can emerge and dominate overnight

  • Advertisers who pay newspapers based on their audience size are fleeing to other channels and platforms

However, my interest today isn’t to discuss the commercial model of newspapers but instead to discuss the value of local journalism itself.

Croydon journalism has little to no value

Many journalists go into their trade thinking that they are valuable truth-tellers and saviours, and will often make the case that they’re a ‘public good’ that needs to be preserved.

Their benefit to society is supposed to be their function as a watchdog on both the public and private sectors – disciplining waste, fraud and abuse – and as a source of information for the public about important issues of public policy.

The problem is:

  • Croydon journalism does not ‘comfort the afflicted’

  • Croydon journalism does not discipline public and private sectors

  • Croydon journalism is consumed but not acted upon

Of course, you can always point to a few significant successes. The Croydon Advertiser was the driving force in changing a national law. Gareth Davies was not a four-time Reporter of the Year winner for nothing. And every journalist that you speak to will always have touching stories of how their efforts have righted an injustice for a hurting family or individual. It’s just that – in aggregate – it doesn’t matter to the public. Not in any useful way, anyway.

Look at how many people share a local news article on Facebook – “Oh, that’s terrible” – but then do nothing about the issue

This is why whenever the death of local journalism is bemoaned it is always chiefly by other journalists. Readers will tweet their favourite journalist a message of support, some will even write a letter to express their dismay, but will they pay more for their newspaper? Nope, nope, nope.

Readers don’t value local newspapers as much as local journalists value local newspapers

I will continue to buy the Croydon Advertiser because it’s inexpensive and I like having an excuse to stop and chat to my long-suffering newsagent.

I will continue to read the stories of stabbings that I can’t prevent, diabetes sufferers running marathons that I’m never going to donate towards, and fraudsters convicted at Croydon Court that I will never meet, because it’s something to do for 27 minutes on the train to London Victoria.

Two minutes after I put the paper down I won’t remember anything that I’ve read because I have a busy life and an even busier mind which has no reason to retain anything that I just read.

However you dress it up – or tell yourself that you are different – this is the attitude of the average Croydon newspaper reader. RIP the Croydon Advertiser. I can’t say that I’m surprised.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He owns a lead generation company. He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Sean Creighton

    Jonny, as a digital savvy person you have access to all sorts of news sources, but many people do not, but even you will now have less knowledge for example of Council affairs. The demise or down grading of any local paper is therefore a blow. Although never adequate in the depth of their coverage they are a means to report in detail a range of local news, events and issues, that will never be reported in regional or national newspapers. There are still many residents who are not internet connected so if a local newspaper folds they have no access to information. The digital divide is still a major problem in Croydon and although the Council and its partners are try to reduce it, it will take time and print material remains vital. Local newspapers have also been a good training ground for your journalists who have gone into regional and national media. The Daily Mail, for example, sends young trainees to work on local newspapers.

    • Anne Giles

      I never read it, but occasionally read something online. Prefer the Croydon Guardian.

    • Jonny Rose

      “If a local newspaper folds they have no access to information”

      True! But that neatly feeds into my third point that “Croydon journalism is consumed but not acted upon”.

      Less information is a bad thing, but as anyone involved in community/participatory action in Croydon can attest: a more informed Croydon public doesn’t really translate into increased action or participation. Just a lot of ‘discussion’ on and offline.

  • Michael Swadling

    The Croydon Advertiser chose to make itself irrelevant during Brexit referendum. Both sides had far more overseas coverage of their Croydon teams than they got in Croydon. Have to say the exception was the Croydon Citizen. Have to agree the old press in Croydon does feel like it has opted out.

  • Paul Mark Ford

    It stopped being local. It never challenged the status quo. It didn’t care. It just wasn’t interesting. Its entertainment pages remained rigidly, and almost exclusively, focused on the ‘safe as milk’ offerings at the Fairfield, despite a thriving independent and amateur arts culture in Croydon. Add to that irrelevant and ultimately pointless reviews of multiplex offerings and video games better served by dedicated channels elsewhere. As both The Citizen and Inside Croydon show, there are stories out there, showing both the glories and the grubby underbelly of the borough. With The Advertiser, you got neither, just an endless parade of mediocrity. It was chip paper before you even picked it up…

  • Pass The Deutschy

    I’m not sure national news is acted upon for the most part, I enjoy CA on Facebook I like the interaction between local folk and also the fact that not all the articles are deadly serious, I also like the fact that the CA give up to date news on incidents going on in the area so if a tram is stuck in the road, I will know and know why thanks to the CA. I just think the change reflects the more “pop media” style of a lot of papers influenced mainly (I think) by the free newspapers, Metro and the now defunct London Paper and the London Lite as well and I don’t think we need the CA to be more than that as the Citizen provides a political voice for those who wish to read it. The two work nicely hand in hand for those like me who like their local news no matter where they live :-) xx