A series of tweets exchanged with the good @CllrMarkBennett led me to believe that I have been giving the South London Press something of an easy ride of late. It’s a rum state of local political affairs when a council cabinet member is calling for the flagship paper to offer a more critical analysis of Lambeth politics.
The failure last week of @streathamnews to identify the difference between council press releases and hard news copy is insignificant when compared to the SLP’s poor presentation of the local news agenda, both online and offline.
It took five days for the SLP to report online about the major local meeting to decide on the future of the Streatham Hub. The location of the meeting was a mere 0.6 miles away from the Leigham Court HQ of the SLP. Clarification would be appreciated over the issue of SLP representation at the meeting.
But it’s not the sloppy reporting of the SLP that leads me to believe that the publication is probably best put out of its misery. The proud old masthead is being put to shame as the South London Press has now become nothing but a means for local prostitutes (and their pimps) to advertise their trade.
Two pages of ‘adult leisure’ adverts are carried in both the Tuesday and Friday print editions. You don’t need a scented handkerchief over your nose to understand what type of leisure is being offered:
Pandora’s Hot Box – massage and escorts
Relaxing Tooting Broadway Massage – luxury flat, discrete and classy [sic]
or even Dulwich Dolly’s – mature at it’s best.
The defence from the SLP in being funded by the exploitation of women is that at least it is supporting the local economy. The print edition for 16th February carries prostitute ads for Suki in Streatham, right on the doorstep of the SLP’s Leigham Court HQ – which must make the SLP the pimp for poor Suki of Streatham.
It is widely accepted that the availability of online advertising is the reason why local newspapers such as the SLP are haemorrhaging both readers and revenue. Why then is the SLP happy to carry prostitute ads in print, but not online?
It’s fine for readers to physically make that phone call in response to a SLP prostitute ad, but to provide a direct online link to the sex trade is maybe seen as being culpable in the continuation of the exploitation of women.
Or maybe I’m just reading too much into the situation – the SLP online is poor; if it takes five days for a hard news story to appear on the website, then it’s no wonder few businesses, legit or otherwise, care to take out online ads.
Don’t even go behind the paywall – no one else does. I wonder if the prostitute ads actually appear for the punters that pay for the privilege of looking deep into the seedy bowles of the SLP online, page for page?
@langrabbie offers further analysis by stating:
This tells you all you need to know about the SLP: it just doesn’t get the modern interweb. Looking further up the dead tree hierarchy, and you get a sense of just how the SLP has managed to fail the local people in South London so poorly in recent years.
If you want to understand the real reason why the SLP is so poor at providing the electorate in South London with a deserved online analysis of the news agenda, then look no further than dear old Sir Ray Tindle.
The 83 year-old founder and chairman of Tindle Newspapers, Streatham born and bred, may understand the newspaper industry but he fails miserably when it comes to the modern interweb:
“We have never followed trends“, such as “moving to the tabloid format“, [Tindle Newspapers] only embraces the internet in destinations where he knows there is an appetite for it.
“The young people don’t buy papers, they read their mother’s paper. They then get married and then they want a flat, then they want a house, then they want a pram and a car. There’s no need to convert the paper into a jazzy thing.”
There’s also no need to convert the proud name of the South London Press into a jazz mag, Mr Tindle. And if by admission your target audience is “mothers,” then cripes – where the hell does the ‘adult leisure’ advertising fit into all of this?
@lambeth_council actually has some high morals (steady) over the seedy advertising that the SLP accepts. The council has recently put in place a prostitution strategy [pdf] to try and remove the sex trade from the borough.
Streatham has traditionally been the centre of the sex trade in Lambeth. The council took the decision to withdraw all advertising from the SLP, as a statement that such a seedy way of funding the newspaper will no longer be tolerated at the Town Hall:
“I’m glad Lambeth withdrew advertising,” said Councillor Mark Bennett, the Cabinet Member for Community Safety. “It’s wrong to support a paper that profits from exploitation and sex-trafficking.”
It’s also wrong to support a paper that has become exceptionally poor in reporting local news online.
I have personally tried to address the failure of the South London Press, offering my online support to help transform the website into a genuine campaigning proposition. The tools are out there to deliver hard news copy that doesn’t take five days to turn around.
In return I received a thanks but no thanks from Hannah Walker, the Editor-in-Chief at the SLP. Fair enough. I was pricing myself probably north of the peanuts the SLP pays it’s journos.
Oh the irony of the Leader of Lambeth Council submitting a complaint to the PCC about reporting in his local patch, only for the Editor in Chief of the paper also sitting on Code of Practice Committee of the PCC.
I wonder if Hannah and her high-powered professionals ever discuss the funding of the SLP by prostitute adverts during their PCC board meetings?
Such a damning criticism of the South London Press isn’t meant to belittle the work carried out by the jobbing journos on the ground. This is a tough news patch to cover, with stories that often leave a high emotional impact upon staff.
As my minor run in with the SLP last year proved, the professional training that journos receive at the SLP is far from the norm of conceived industry practises.
As if being paid peanuts out of the prostitution money pot isn’t bad enough, SLP journos are then expected to supervise work experience kids that clearly aren’t suited to the job.
[Worth repeating a point of order: I wrote a weekly sports column for the SLP for four years. I was sporadically paid for a period of around a year, and then the payments dried up. I calculated that I trousered approximately £160 for around four hundred hours work in total. You can see why I went back to the autonomy of blogging.]
It’s a wonder that the paper actually appears twice a week (or even once a week online) such are the demands placed on the poorly paid staff. Perhaps this is why crucial council meetings aren’t attended?
Hey hoe – I suppose that is what the cut and pasting of agency copy is here for, as the front page splash for this Tuesday so clearly demonstrates.
Ah yes, about that cut and pasting of agency copy to fill a sorry excuse for a front page:
“A porn dealer who turned to drug smuggling after the internet ruined his magazine business…”
Overlooking the warped irony of the reporting by the SLP of a publishing business being ruined by the internet, there really is hypocrisy of the highest order taking place here.
Ever quick to demonise pornography and drugs, the SLP clearly has no issue in taking the filthy wonga from this very same industry to finance it’s own operation.
Ah, just another #hyperlocal young (ish) upstart, wanting to lay the online boot into BIG (ish) local media, comes the cry from my critics. Yes, and no. I truly believe that the next three months in Lambeth are crucial to the long term regeneration of our area.
The electorate had the choice on May 6th to make political decisions that will have a direct consequence on the “financial tsunami” affecting Lambeth PCT, the opening up of education to the private sector, and yes, leisure and the whole Streatham Hub farce.
BIG (ish) media ‘aint for me, both as a content producer and consumer. I couldn’t work with the restrictions placed upon reporting, not to mention the painfully slow turn around of content as the daily news cycle becomes a weekly rehash online. Being paid out of the money gained from the exploitation of women in the sex industry would sit uncomfortably with me as well.
Which all leads to the conclusion:
What the hell is the point of the South London Press?
As long as (i) it is being continued to be funded by the exploitation of women in South London and (ii) major news stories are ignored online, then the South London Press can no longer be considered as a proper newspaper.
Come back @streathamnews, all is forgiven.