VFTX Issue 21
17 Sep 2013
Over the past few years I think I have filled in three surveys for the Lanark Gazette commenting on how I find this local newspaper.
For me the Gazette is a local institution which has, for many years, catered for the needs of those in Lanark district. It was good at keeping us up-to-date with current developments and was not afraid to take on the Council when the occasion demanded it.
However recently I have become rather disappointed with it. What has gone wrong with the Gazette and why?
First is the cost of it. It costs a staggering 75p for a much-reduced edition compared to what was on offer 20 years ago. The new tabloid edition format was crammed with stories when it was launched but it has now withered to a small, thin newspaper containing little in the way of news.
Articles are tiny and beefed out with large photographs to take up space. How many times do we need a picture of the exterior of the Sheriff Court when we read about the result of a court case?
The news is often weeks out of date. Stories seem to be held back to be used later if news is scarce. Many accounts of Christmas events were appearing late in January! Reports from the Community Council are dripped out week after week and can become so dated they cease to become news at all.
Gone are the wedding photographs that the public loved to view. Today you have to pay to have your wedding pictures published. Accounts of social events seldom appear today. In the past events like the Guildry Dinner were covered in depth.
A full account of the meals was given followed by what each of the speakers delivered to the audience. Organisers were encouraged to give details of upcoming events. They enjoyed the publicity and the paper filled up their pages. Today clubs struggle to get publicity unless they take out an advert.
Advertising is the lifeblood of any newspaper and it can be a very useful tool for local businesses. Another irritating development is the Gazette now filling a couple of pages with items on offer from itself! Imagine how frustrating it must be for a jeweller who may advertise clocks in the paper to suddenly find the Gazette suddenly undercutting you with a mail order offer!
Yet another irritation is the constant pressure applied to the reader to bypass their local newsagent and receive a discount on the newspaper price by purchasing it directly from the publisher. How does this encourage us to become Totally Locally?
Another trend is to copy the BBC in padding out what they deliver to their public. I am referring to repeats. Dad's Army has been repeated so often that young children can often become word perfect in the scripts!
A regular feature is repeats of articles and news stories of 25, 50 and 100 years ago. I find these interesting and would encourage their inclusion in addition - not instead of - current news.
The reason why it had lost its edge is harder to quantify. It may be lack of money, lack of competition or just lack of ambition. Whatever it is something will have to be done to restore confidence in the Lanark Gazette. If this does not happen its circulation will decline and the paper will fold.
Talking of competition how many people read “The Lanark Bugle” Facebook page? I have recently discovered this and have been impressed with the amount of feedback it generates. A bit like View from the Cross, the contributors are anonymous which allows a more gloves off approach to comments posted. Some of the exchanges can get quite heated and this makes for interesting reading.
Last month I dealt with Rights of Way and asked if the route from Old Bridgend to the Sewage Works was a Right of Way. I promised to give an answer this month.
The answer is a tricky one. Historically St Patrick’s Road took traffic from Lanark down to the area of the sewage works, where the Clyde was forded and a ferry operated. This made St Patrick’s Road a right of way. In 1699 a bridge was built to cross the Clyde and it remains there to this day.
When the sewage works was built the Town Council requested access to the site and an agreement was made with the owner of the ground to allow a road to be made to join the bridge to the sewage works. Because passage was given with the owners consent, it could be argued it was a right of access not a right of way.
The public used it for more than 20 years unhindered by the owner and it eventually was incorporated into the Clyde Walkway. When the owner began to have problems with some people abusing the route he closed the road and negotiated a new route via the new access road to the sewage works with Scottish Water.
South Lanarkshire were not happy and insisted the existing right of way be restored. Sadly Jimmy Hamilton died and eventually the route was restored. There was no evidence to support the claim that the route was supplied through a gentleman’s agreement, although a few of the Councillors of the time confirmed this was the case.
I think the Council was probably correct in maintaining the route was a right of way, but feel they could have applied some common sense and supported a re- routing via the alternative road. It would have saved a lot of time and money, and would have solved a problem for a ratepayer.
If you are spending someone else’s money you sometimes see things in a different light!