By ANTON RIPPON
To think I once had to wait until the Midday Edition of the Derby Evening Telegraph to find out how Derby County had gone on at Leyton Orient the night before. No internet and no local radio, and the national papers for our neck of the woods had gone to bed before the game ended.
That was back in September 1963 but it could have been any midweek game right up to the early 1970s. And not just the Rams. Supporters of most clubs had to wait until the following day to learn how their favourites had fared in a midweek away game.
Now the wheel has turned full-circle. If they don’t bother with the internet – there are still some older people who think that it won’t catch on – or, more unlikely I know, don’t tune-in to their local BBC station but instead rely solely on their local newspaper, there are fans of Sunderland, Hartlepool United, Blackpool, Wigan Athletic and Preston North End who will soon have to wait until the day after tomorrow to discover the result of a midweek game.
JPIMedia is to introduce earlier deadlines to six of its regional dailies, meaning that evening sports matches – or, indeed, any late breaking news – will not make the following day’s print edition.
At present the six titles have last copy times of between 1am and 2am but the new deadlines will see the Hartlepool Mail and the Wigan Post move to 7.15pm, and the Monday to Friday editions of the Blackpool Gazette and Shields Gazette move to 7.45pm, the Sunderland Echo to 8.15pm, and the Lancashire Post to 9pm when the second half of a football match will hardly have started.
A spokesman told HoldtheFrontPage: “JPIMedia is continually assessing opportunities to efficiently structure the distribution network of our titles. Our daily and weekly newspaper titles in the North-West, along with the daily titles in the North-East, are currently distributed direct to our retailers.
“The rest of the newspaper distribution in JPI Media is handled by the wholesaler network and we would like to bring the NW and NE in line with the rest of the company.
“We appreciate this decision will bring forward the print deadlines of these titles and impact our coverage of live, midweek sport. Sports fans will continue to have access to our continuously improving match reports and analysis via our digital platforms. We are committed to ensuring we can provide the best coverage of our teams online and in print and are investing in re-platforming our websites and apps in order to significantly improve our readers’ user experience.”
That sentence “Sports fans will continue to have access to our continuously improving match reports and analysis via our digital platforms,” is depressingly familiar. JPI, Reach and Newsquest have all made it clear that print now comes a poor second. Last month JPIMedia announced that it was to trial a newsroom restructure in the North-East which would see journalists move away from the print production process and concentrate on digital work, while the deputy sports editor of a Reach regional daily told me recently that such resources as are available are being directed solely at digital. “It’s a grim time to be involved,” he said.
Evening sports matches – or, indeed, any late breaking news – will not make the following day’s print edition
Of course the days have long gone when a newspaper seller would stand outside a football ground at full-time, hoping to sell a few copies on the strength of the outcome of the 3.30 at Redcar. Any punter with an interest would have had the result flashed to their smart phone before horses and riders had come to a standstill.
And as lovely as it is to remember those cold Saturday teatimes when there was a crowd outside the newsagent’s waiting for the van to pull up and drop a bundle of Green ’Uns or Pinks ’Uns on the pavement, it isn’t going to happen again. What would be the point? There would be no one to greet it. Everyone would be at home looking at the TV or scanning their computer screens for the latest tweets from sports journalists on the spot. You may as well hope that tomorrow morning you might hear the clip-clop of the milkman’s horse coming down your street.
Yet there people who enjoy reading a newspaper, and these new deadlines in the North-East and North-West of England will see sports fans join the increasing number of hitherto loyal readers who are turning their backs on print editions. But maybe that is the objective?