STAGS BLOG: Chad’s Mansfield Town coverage - a few home truths on local media

John Lomas. Mansfield chad.
John Lomas. Mansfield chad.

After some of the recent flak the local media has taken here and there, I thought it may be timely to give you a rare state of the nation address as far as Mansfield and Stags coverage is concerned.

This isn’t a hurt response to nasty, barbed comments that have been made for years - opinion will always be a part of what we do.

This is simply a statement of the facts in 2016.

Everyone enjoys reading news. Everyone wants to keep up with what’s happening. The trouble is, with the advent of the internet, no one wants to pay for it any more.

At the same time that the public suddenly want their news for free, the printed newspaper industry is in huge decline everywhere.

While few people blink an eye at the closure of tiny, local newspapers, the impending end next month of a national paper – The Independent – caused a few more ripples as did news that an institution as old and loved as The Guardian is also in financial trouble.

These are very tough times for everyone, but we are all doing our very best to keep local news alive.

And with the Chad and Mansfield 103.2, this town is blessed compared with many others of its size and catchment.

Back in the good old days, the Chad on Newgate Lane had a big office full of journalists and high circulation figures.

But as the national trend of falling print figures hits home, staff here and everywhere have been hugely reduced leaving those still at the papers to try to keep up the standards with greatly reduced resources.

However, to say the Chad sports’ section is ‘not what it used to be’ forgets that when I joined the paper in 1993 we had around eight sports pages.

These days we veer between 10 and 16 printed pages each week, and that is not to mention the web site on which we probably do 10 times more than that over the course of seven busy days.

At one time we had two members of staff working exclusively on Mansfield Chad printed sports pages.

Now we have a team of five full-time and two part-time staff to write the sports sections of 12 Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire newspapers as well as keeping 12 web sites up to date as near to 24/7 as we can manage – a Herculean effort by a dedicated team.

Yet the internet age has been a godsend and Mansfield Town coverage has never been so good.

As well as the up to date news we have features and nostalgic retro pieces going up at regular intervals each and every day.

A Stags fan is never without something fresh and interesting to read – no longer is there a seven day wait for the printed version.

We try to be interactive and give fans their say on issues as well as doing polls and video podcasts – all new for the digital age.

But the small number of staff that produce all the content are trained journalists – not enthusiastic volunteers – and they need to earn a wage to care for their families and pay mortgages like everyone else.

In that lies the problem.

Fans increasingly don’t want a printed newspaper. Fans want to read news immediately online, whether on their home PC, tablet or mobile phone.

To be able to accommodate that shift in trend, the Chad and its ilk need to rely less on newspaper income and more on the online advertising to continue to exist and pay their staff.

However, some fans have expressed anger at the adverts that appear on the web site when they log on to read a story.

But the simple truth is that is the only way we can continue to be able to provide a local news service.

Without adverts in the paper or online, it’s game over.

I lived in Long Eaton for a time and used to buy the local paper, the Long Eaton Advertiser, on a weekly basis.

I eventually spent 10 happy years working there as a news reporter.

But one day, pre-internet, it was announced that circulation had dropped so low the paper was going to close – indeed, the decrepit old building was only recently demolished.

It didn’t take long for people to realise what they’d lost.

All of a sudden your link to the outside world was gone. All the local news and events suddenly needed to be passed on by word of mouth or through gossip and became more like Chinese whispers than news.

It was a shock to the system. Even if you’d not bought it religiously, it was always there for you.

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, they say. That proved so true when the Advertiser died.

All I can say in conclusion is that, while you not agree with everything we write at the Chad, we try to cater for all our audience - informing and entertaining in equal measures.

Someone wrote on fans’ site StagsNet that, as a journalist of many years and singer in a punk rock band, I must have a thick skin.

It’s true, I have a very thick skin and I have needed to have it for some of the unnecessary and, sometimes untrue, jibes.

I simply don’t have the time or energy to get involved in weekly slanging matches – and some of the comments are very funny anyway and I have put my head over the parapet to be shot at, so go ahead.

But please remember I and the rest of the staff here, as well as the also reduced staff at the radio station, are all doing our best with increasingly limited resources to bring you the best coverage we’ve ever given to the Stags.

The jibes online about the coverage given by papers elsewhere in the county as well as other radio stations and the TV tell the other side of the story.

We are local and as proud as you of the football club, and we will always give it top priority and full attention.

Thanks to all of you who read what we write and make it all worthwhile and, to our detractors, be careful what you wish for.

Remember - we now serve much bigger audiences across many platforms with a reach that could only be dreamed of a decade ago.

Rapidly changing media landscape is challenging but we are still here, innovating, adapting and delivering 24/7 coverage of the communities we are still proud to serve.

Enjoy the rest of the season.