What a delight to welcome back BA Journalism graduate Vicky Hallifax as one of our recent Atrium journalism/media guest speakers here at USW’s central Cardiff campus.
And even more delightful to welcome her as editor, following her recent promotion.
Vicky started writing a column for the Monmouthshire Beacon while she was still studying, got some work experience there, graduated straight into a job, and has just been put in charge. She told students that she loves the variety of the work – and that her course at USW was instrumental in securing it.
The Beacon itself is one of journalism’s little gems. It first published in 1837, and still prides itself on having run in 1839 a 200-page report on the trial of Newport Chartist leader John Frost. (That’s a whole other story, and is well told here.)
The Beacon today is part of the newspaper group run by Sir Ray Tindle, who championed the idea of hyper-local journalism before it went out of fashion and came back again. He continues to remind the industry and its detractors that a good grassroots press is booming. (Sir Ray started his first paper with his £300 demob money at the end of WW2 and now has more than 220 titles, which carry on their front page his family motto: Noli Cedere or ‘Never Surrender’.)
Back to Vicky, who told students at the Atrium that not only does nearly everyone in Monmouth read the paper but a fair few of them pop into its town centre offices for a chat, too. Never mind an online comments section – they deliver their views face to face. It seems that a combination of hyper-locality and a real physical presence achieves an intimacy of which social media can only dream.
Vicky’s talk drove me to check out some stats on the world outside social media. Out there, about 30 million people in the UK don’t use Facebook and another 50 million don’t use Twitter.
Life is, instead, more local than we might think. According to the Newspaper Society, 85 per cent of people spend more than half their time AND half their money within five miles of their homes. The local press plays a huge part in that, with 30 million people reading it every week and responding to the adverts.
The decline of the printed press? Not yet, not in Monmouth, and not any place where real people live real lives.