As far as local rags go the Northampton Chronicle & Echo, like the town, is nothing special. With six editions and a 21,000 daily circulation it's just about breaking even, but having to sack journalists and sell the old style traditional newspaper premises to achieve that. All around the country local rags that have been running for decades are being closed down or merged as peoples attentions move online to find local employment or properties or catch up on the sport that way, the big selling issues for local papers.
One of the big stories here is the death of the young girl at a local nightclub, the Lava & Ignite, plenty of follow up articles since, here and in the nationals. Sadly the local hacks are not being very brave on it and resorting to cut and pasting stuff from that national press when the Chronicle should be leading on the story - the nationals cut n pasting from the Chronicle! It was said it was a student night but in actual fact it was a big black urban booty shaking, whistle blowing 'thang', with young black Brit's coming from all around the country to party to hip hop and black music, a 'Skank and Raga night', if you know your street beats. It was always going to be lively and excitable, as it was last year, more cops on duty than we thought. The previous week's student's event on the same Tuesday night slot was a more sedate and cliché indie night affair and very quiet and well behaved, mop tops shuffling around the floor to Radiohead hardly highly charged.
At the moment it's portrayed that the crush was solely down to clubbers rushing to depart the venue when the DJ announced that the buses were leaving in ten minutes time to take them home or back to the university, which is about right. In reality the venue was packed full and they were still letting kids in at midnight to stop a large crowd forming outside. The police were nervous as gang crime tensions and disorder is inevitable when groups of black men gather from our various inner cities and so the cops wanted to disperse them. Some clubbers said there was an 'atmosphere' on the night, the odd fight kicking off in the club as various groups faced off. The event was quickly out of control and the police were not doing enough to stop it kicking off. Some of the same types of people who joined in the riots in London were in that club that night and with only 15 bouncers and stewards on duty the risk was always there that the promoters would get greedy by stuffing the club full with late punters at £15-30 a ticket, the suggestion of what has happened. The emotive word of 'Hillsborough' is being used here, the crowd, the venue and police messing up yet again to cause tragedy.
The club has now closed down for good and the company that owns it deservedly in liquidation, this accident the straw that finally broke the camels back, the smoking ban and recession and a previous death or two at the club meaning the game was up. As per usual, the young black guys and girls there are not coming forward with valuable information and images of that night, few camera phone video and snapshots surrendered for some reason. It's that mistrust of the police that seems to contribute to this type of trouble in the black community. A second girl has now died and a very pretty one too, innocent girls just out for a boogie and a fun time crushed to death by greedy people.
Northampton was also the scene of a brutal murder, a Chinese national hacking to death a whole family last spring. Mr Dang is now Britain's most wanted man and the police are baffled where he is. It looks like the countries Chinese community are refusing to give him up as they have a rather secretive culture and keep themselves to themselves, mistrusting the police more than a serial killer, it seems. There have been two mistaken identity arrests but no sign of this guy.
One part of the investigation that left Northamptonians flabbergasted was the killer's car sat on a London side street for two weeks after the attack, unidentified to the police but covered in 22 parking tickets, even though the car was registered to him. For some reason Westminster's notorious parking enforcement database that tickets every car in London is not linked to the police computer and so while the wardens were brainlessly slapping tickets on the same car no one was reporting it to the police. This is extra annoying and somewhat ironic as Northampton residents are hammered with parking tickets for the slightest parking infringement and get a summons in the post if you don't pay.
Talking to people at the paper the murder scene was horrendous and there's an off the record suggestion the killer had done this before and maybe had Triad connections, the dispute between the family and the businessman still yet fully explained.
The rest of the paper is the usual stuff of local issues around crime, housing and life in general; the boring stuff that keeps these papers in business and attracts the all important local advertisers. We have been reasonably crime free as far as gangs and drugs go and so when there is a murder its usually a domestic between husband and wife or a foreign national, our very high Eastern European and asylum population meaning that is inevitably so. For the vast Polish communities contribution to the town they are rarely mentioned unless sits bad news, some 18% of the town now born abroad.
The sports section of which I contribute by writing a cricket column on Northants CCC is mostly the Cobblers and Northampton Saints and they also do a lot more syndication these days by cut n pasting off national websites like the BBC. The sports section in the local rag and contributors like me are really just there to stop the ads falling out the back end of the paper if the truth be told but its very rewarding to actually be in print.
The jobs issue on Thursday was once a big earner in times of good with 10 to 15 pages of positions vacant but now it's down to four pages and its Wednesday's property that makes the money back in recession. Classifieds and 0845 numbers also make the paper a few quid. We do a Friday TV pull out and a Saturday edition on arts and entertainment but they always end up being listings for the local Derngate Theatre and the cinemas, again lots of syndicated stuff from the national media, Northampton a big enough place to be having the potential to be a reasonably exciting place but still all rather dull and insecure.
The general tone of the rag is safe and objective and as informative and patronising as BBC local radio. The perfunctory spelling mistakes are there to accompany those awful columns on nature and village life. Do we really want to know about the life of the hedge sparrow in recession? If you do have an interest and want to get into writing a column, your local rag is a way in to the media. I pestered them and finally got the gig and if you have an interest in something niche then beg them to give you a go. Plenty of you guys could write a column on something or other. No harm in asking! Some papers pay and the going rates are around 60 pounds per 1000 words.
It costs less than 50p for that 20,000 circulation, the all-important advertising its only hope of survival as local papers come under increasing pressure by the modern media. But as long as local news websites remain as bad as they are then the local paper will survive. If you read the Chron on your trendy Kindle on the bus in Northampton you will be robbed.
I don't think the nationals will survive in their current number and as local papers increasingly cut n paste from their journalists I can only see local papers being thrice weekly and much smaller. As I said the Chronicle & Echo has plans to move from its traditional grandiose offices in the centre of the town that are up for sale and such is modern technology around news gathering and printing that the new premises will be a tenth of the size in staff and capacity than it was 50 years ago. Bizarrely it's cheaper to print the newspaper paper in Peterborough and truck it back here.
As a local resident of Northampton, my local newspaper is the Chronicle and Echo.
The Chronicle and Echo serves Northampton and the surrounding towns and villages, with editions from Monday to Saturday.
The cost of the Chronicle and Echo is 40p an issue, though six months ago we had an offer that if we had the newspaper delivered we received it for 2 months a 20p and issue.
The paper is generally to good paper, with many details of local new, though some times I feel that they have to fill in with a bit of nothing new. The other day it there was an article about a woman who has a boy when her 20-week scan said there was a high change of her having a girl. Not the most interesting news in my opinion.
The paper also includes the local ads for local business, articles for sale, family announcements and obituaries
The paper also has the big national stories in, which does save buying a separate paper for this type of news.
On Wednesday is big property section, with hundreds of houses for sale and to rent in and around Northampton, I have found this very use full my self when looking for accommodation.
Thursday is the job section which has really decreased over the years I don't know if this is because of the lack of jobs or that people are finding more affective ways to advertise jobs,
On Friday, you get the weekend guide about what is going on in and around Northampton, which my self with three children always finds useful to find a fete or car boot sale to take them to.
Around mothers and fathers day they have a section where children can draw a picture of there mum or dad and the chronicle and echo will but it in the paper free of charge the day before mothers or fathers day.
Overall, this paper is a very good buy as it gives local and national news, well worth the 40p