The Shields Gazette
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The Shields Gazette is the UK’s oldest provincial newspaper, it became the first of 17 regional evening daily newspapers in 1855 and was born 13 years prior to the formation of The Press Association, that’s nearly 153 years of bring local news to the folks o’ Shields! It started life as a weekly in 1849 and was known as the North and South Shields Gazette, before later being titled The Shields Gazette and Shipping Telegraph.
It is now part of North East Press, a division of Johnston Press, and the paper has been printed on the presses of the Sunderland Echo in Pennywell, Sunderland, since 1992. Prior to that date the newspaper was put together and printed on it’s own press in Chapter Row, South Shields, back in the days when newspapers were block set by hand, a tortuous yet skilled profession. Recent IT developments and technologies use a type of desk top publishing which can produce newspapers far quicker and make editing much simpler.
Over the years The Gazette has employed some great journalists, yet none apparently so romantically linked with North East journalism and it’s recent history as Jim Slater, there is a great pen portrait of him here:
He first dreamed of a life in journalism when, ten-years-old and a shilling a time, he telephoned reports for the chap who covered South Shields FC – then in the old second division – for the Gazette.
At 14 he became copy boy – “Always abbreviated to ‘Boy!’” – charged with moving the written word between newsroom, sub-editors’ room and printing works and with sorting out the carbon paper as he ran.
“The editor drilled through you with his eyes, never mind his tongue. I always felt guilty when he looked at me, but he was a very good editor.”
I found his story about Arthur Grey an eye opener, the three or four times that I met him I always thought he was the most courteous gentleman, rather like my grandfather.
Chris Wilson was another reporter who having left the Gazette returned to edit it, he was a former member of the Boys Club ran by my father at St, Jude’s Church in Alice street, a wonderful man with a hearty smile and sense of humour, and who can forget the insightful reporting of all things connected with the River Tyne and the sea by the late John Landells?
One can see how times had changed in this 1993 video recording which noted the leaving of the lovely Kate Corr, leaving gifts from “Winners” in Fowler Street, South Shields presented by the ever present Terry Kelly, please note the big hair, the big specs, the big computers, the awful operating systems that we “enjoyed” back then. Can anyone put a name to any other faces here?
Some of you may not be too keen on the modern composition of The Shields Gazette with it’s inside front page filled with more regional news, it’s high content of stories made available by South Tyneside Council, it’s letters from regular contributors, or it’s reliance on generic inserts placed in the middle to pack out the content, but at the end of the day it’s the only newspaper out on the streets specifically aimed at South Tynesiders, and as the years have seen it’s proprietors cut costs to maintain a business it becomes even more important for you, the reader, to help provide news and stories. It costs little to make phone call to talk to the team in the newsroom who would be only too happy to have your input, or to write a letter or even email it in.
On a more serious note, as The Press Gazette points out, audience reach is becoming as important as circulation these days, and newspapers have become more accessible via this internet thing, advertising revenue in the digital age helps provincial dailies cover the costs of production but it’s the paying public who give the lifeline to our daily newspaper. Sales on the street are falling they were down 3% year on year as reported in the Press Gazette’s article. The Audit Bureau of Circulations (.pdf), the body which measures newspaper and magazine sales shows that the downward trend has continued in the six months to December 2007. Paid for sales (Mon. to Fri.) of 19445 per day in July fell to 18427 by December, a fall of 5%. This is a trend mirrored by many other regional newspapers in a busy market.
The Press Gazette also reports a growing trend for earlier printing with some printing overnight to get the paper on the streets early morning, this gives a longer shelf life at the newsagents but at the expense of missing breaking stories. We are still used to regarding The Shields Gazette as an evening paper and are sometimes bemused to see the Saturday edition on the streets by as early as 09.30, but perhaps one can now understand why, the longer it is available, the more copies may be sold.
One aspect of selling newspapers on the streets seems to have gone with the mists of time, the hail or the call in a loud voice from the vendor to attract the attention of passers by, apparently in some sort of foreign language “geerhgur!” – “ZZZettuh”, – the vendors seem so quiet in King Street these days!
I wonder if I am like many others pouring over the online edition reading every story and then going out to buy the printed edition too? I have to say that I find it difficult to navigate the “hatches, matches, and dispatches” online, or to find the “telly” page. As a means of weaving the threads of a local community together your local newspaper still has an important role to play, and with such a long history and tradition to maintain ambitious young journalists are doing their best to inform and entertain, and without the support of local people this would all disappear – so remember to buy your Gazette.
One other thing – why is it no longer recycled as fish and chip wrappings?