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Film, Bolton Wanderers, Journalism

Council coverage in The Bolton News

with 6 comments

As part of Sarah Hartley’s investigation on Help Me Investigate into how much local newspaper coverage is dedicated to local councils, I looked at my local paper, The


The Bolton News

Bolton News over a four-day period.

I analysed the editions between Wednesday January 6 and Weekend Edition January 9 2010. The number of pages ranged from 60 on the Wednesday to just 31 on the weekend with the number of pages devoted to news coverage ranging between 10 and 13. The number of pages devoted to local council coverage ranged from 1.75 to 3.25, as per the calculation method set out by Sarah Hartley.

Weds Jan 6 Thurs Jan 7 Fri Jan 8 Weekend Edition Jan 9 Average
Splash Snow causes chaos Grit levels Bin collections Yobs target estate N/A
Number of pages 36 (60 inc. supplement) 48 40 31 39
Number of news pages 13 13 10 12 12
Number of pages containing local council coverage 1.75 3.25 2.75 3 2.68
Percentage of local council coverage in the news section 7% 25% 27.5% 25% 21%

The editions that I analysed were somewhat skewed in their news values by the snow and ice that covered the UK, with the weather making the front page on three of the four days. On two occasions, what I believe to be strong page leads were bumped down to filler status – money from Icelandic banks to be recovered by Bolton Council, and that Bolton schools are £2.6m in debt. Instead, snow was the favoured lead story, with at least four solid pages devoted to pictures of snowmen, igloos, snowbathers etc. over the four days. The majority of the council coverage centred on the council’s response to the weather, and to The Bolton News’ credit, although the coverage was light, the depth and position from which it was reported from – the average Boltonian’s worries (e.g. Bin collections, road gritting, school opening etc.) must be commended.


Written by bjobbo

January 18, 2010 at 9:15 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Thanks for that, Ben – great to see the newspaper I grew up with analysed. The ‘White-Mare’ headline reminded me of the ‘White Hot!’ front cover with John McGinley celebrating when BWFC beat Liverpool in the FA Cup…


    January 22, 2010 at 10:00 am

  2. Thanks for taking part Ben. Interesting weekend results.


    January 25, 2010 at 8:46 am

  3. But never any investigative journalism. Surprised? PS. is this for uni? I thought you’d left?


    January 31, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    • I think it’s a bit of a strange situation with the investigative journalism. One would think that because local newspapers rely so much on council and police coverage that investigative journalism is rare because local journos need police/council contacts much more than the police/council need local papers.
      But looking at the results on Help Me Investigate, there is not a lot of council coverage in local papers. With the lack of coverage, you might expect investigative journalism to increase. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. I think it’s just the lack of staff that’s the reason.
      No this isn’t for uni, I left last May. Just doing this because Paul Bradshaw invited me to at Help Me Investigate (


      February 1, 2010 at 10:40 am

  4. Interesting to see what you’re saying about investigative journalism. I suppose you have to define investigative journalism first. From my experience, a lot of investigating can go into a story which, when it appears in print, you’d never guess involved any real investigation at all. At the same time, stories which were often pushed very hard as investigations in newspapers, especially local ones, can have little impact with readers.


    February 4, 2010 at 12:07 am

    • I know what you mean David, I presumed boltoncouncilsucks was referring to the Woodward and Bernstein, Fake Sheik type investigative journalism. When I went on placement there in 2008, there were maybe six reporters on the newsdesk, who have to produce on average 12 pages of news. Investigative journalism in the most traditional sense is much riskier than “normal” journalism, in that news editors must weigh up whether one superb splash is worth the risk of losing a couple of contacts, and a lot of stories. Any stories from personal experience David?


      February 7, 2010 at 12:13 am

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