Gazette News

An informative and information seeking visit to our local newspaper

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The Press and Us - A working relationship

The Press in general and the local press in particular often take stick - sometimes deserved, sometimes not. And sometimes awareness can help. Which is why, having established such a working rapport with the Gazette whereby they now give Rotary such a high profile, it seemed an idea for us to see it from their side.
How they operate, the pressure they are under to produce, how they gather the news and the features, how they research the markets and how they make up the pages each week.

All those were answered when a party of ten from the club, seven members and three wives, were hosted by Gazette editor Alan Woods and his staff on Friday, August 7 to see how it all happens.

After an initial introduction and video display by Alan in the board room, at which chief Gazette reporter Joe Sturdy and Circulation Director, Zoe Fullalove also outlined their duties, we were given a tour of the newsroom to meet with experienced sub-editor Glen Oldershaw and some of the crime reporters. This was timely as more information was breaking about the alleged murder incident at Little Burstead - something of a rare occurence in “dozy” Billericay but nothing of which can be discussed here for legal reasons. But it was, in newspaper terms, a “hot” story and one which excited us as much as the Gazette reporters on the case.

43 Titles from one office. 
Facts we learned:
* The total circulation of the Gazette series is 10,000-11,000 copies a week, mostly in Brentwood but the Billericay and Wickford edition circulates at around 3,000 copies, mostly on a door-to-door delivery basis.
* In all, 43 titles across Essex, Herts, Kent and Surrey are produced at the offices in Kestral House at the Hedgerows Business Park in Chelmsford. These range from Canterbury, Thanet, Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells in Kent to Croydon, and Reigate in Surrey, and several in Hertfordshire. All are edited at Chelmsford and, at the push of a button by a team of sub-editors and scrutinised thoroughly by the editor when
complete, sent to Broxbourne for printing.

Never Miss a Deadline
* The feature pages are started before the weekend but the news pages are put together on what Alan Woods describes as “Manic Monday”. Deadline for Wednesday’s Gazette is 1.00pm Tuesday.
“ We must not miss that deadline,” he stressed. “Time is money and a missed deadline by one of our papers can mean a severe delay on the publication of the other titles.” Zoe told us: “We are the unseen section of the paper. We have to look at everything from market research, to potential outlets - newsagents, supermarkets, promotional opportunities and even have to consider the weather - will we sell more on a wet day or a sunny day? Promotions are vital and we now show off the paper at events such as the recent Summerfest in Billericay.”

On the tour of the newsroom which with a computer at more than sixty desks, might be right out of the Kennedy Space Centre, sub-editors were putting together early pages - choosing the best bridal photograph for the wedding spread for example. Glen Oldershaw, who started his career in Colchester, has done it all - reporter, news editor, editor. He glowed with pride in his role as sub-editor with special esponsibilities and we literally had to drag ourselves away for the official “team” photograph with Alan before thanking him and departing.

President Ed Harrison led our delegation of Mike Sinclair, Norman Bishop, Peter and Wendy Greene, Chandra and Maya Gupta (who confessed she might have been a journalist in south Yorkshire if she hadn’t chosen nursing), Peter and Christabel Strong (who engaged Alan on her beloved subject of conservation), and myself (who realised that it was a whole new world from the one I left 20 years ago.)

Verdict as we adjourned to the Baker’s Arms in Stock for post-visit pie and pint, was: “Well worth the visit. We learned a lot.”