Ooo. Croydon Sadvertiser editor takes offence

Poor young Glenn Ebrey. He gets the big job as a local newspaper editor, and he gets given Croydon’s Brothel Advertiser. Talk about the shitty end of the stick. Presumably he was told the fate of his predecessor?

Ebrey started working in Croydon barely six months ago. In a small way, he may even owe his current position to Inside Croydon, since we first highlighted the idiocy of a paper that can run a splash about an illegal brothel in the borough (which reporters had been told about by campaigners almost a year earlier), and yet continued to advertise the very same establishment.

Today, Ebrey has taken offence at Inside Croydon‘s coverage of his sadly declining rag. He’d better develop a thicker skin, and quickly.

In an “open letter” he has posted on his barely read Sadvertiser blog (witness the paucity of comments), Ebrey challenges someone he calls “the Insider” (we assume he means us here at Inside Croydon) to respond to points of issue with our coverage of his paper. Specifically, the somewhat “staged” liaison with Councillor Phil “Two Permits” Thomas over the parking campaign.Now without wishing to patronise the young whipper snapper (whoops, there we go…), any journalist who relies on sources – and all journalists do – will in some way be compromised by that relationship.

It is our contention that the Sadvertiser has been compromised in its coverage of local issues for many years – long before Ebrey was given the editor’s chair. Hence our view of his paper as “puerile or patronising” and “tired and dull”.

Don’t take it personally, Glenn: it wasn’t a review of your work, but a reflection of being ill-served for many years by what is possibly one of the worst local newspapers in the country.

And that’s not just our view: ask journalists who work a similar patch for the Croydon Guardian or the South London Press. Ask yourself, Glenn, when was the last time that the Sadvertiser actually broke a story – any story – that got followed up by local BBC or ITV networks, by the Mail or the Standard?

The Sadvertiser is the newspaper that once issued a bill (the sales posters placed outside newsagents): “Traffic chaos in town centre…” yawn… “after double murder”. No chance of missing the story, eh?

Any wonder that no one followed up this Sadvertiser world exclusive front page?  “Drivers flout mobile laws” was the latest in a long line of stories about bears defacating in wooded areas, dogs biting men, and the Pope being of the Catholic persuasion.

It was the Sadvertiser – which has not changed its fawning coverage of Crystal Palace for at least 20 years – which rubbished reports that manager George Burley was about to be sacked. You published this, Glenn, a week before very thirsty Burley was fired. Dull?

A more recent Friday morning front-page headline said: “Man falls to his death from 10th floor of a hotel”. This was your choice as the biggest “news” story of the week, and published five days after the tragic event.

We wait for the Sadvertiser to launch a full-on investigation of the activities of Councillor “Two Permits” Thomas. We won’t be holding our breath, though, and we remind our reader that it was the Croydon Guardian which broke the story about Thomas’s free parking permits for his BMW and for his wife’s sports car. Not the Sadvertiser.

Today, Ebrey complains that Inside Croydon “goes on to criticise us for daring to start a campaign (a successful campaign, I might add) against Croydon Council’s parking proposals”.

At just 28, Ebrey is young enough that he ought to remember his journalism training course, when he would have been told that he must report facts accurately.

So a question for you, Glenn: where in Inside Croydon‘s report on Monday does it criticise the Sadvertiser for “daring to start a campaign”?

The residents’ campaign against the council’s ill-conceived parking proposals needed all the help it could get.

That’s why residents started to call the Sadvertiser newsroom in early December to alert you to concerns about the council’s proposals. Quick as a flash (not), the Sadvertiser rushed to press with its campaign on… January 14!

The Sadvertiser did not “start a campaign”, but belatedly jumped on a bandwagon.

Even after coming to the party so late, Ebrey and his colleagues lacked the courage of their convictions. With the deadline for the consultation process just a week away, on Jan 28 Ebrey’s “Parking Mad” campaign was buried on page 21 of his rag. Hardly the bold campaigning journalism of a new John Pilger.

Indeed, according to the CRAPP website, such was the disinterest in the Sadvertiser‘s own campaign, residents’ calls to one reporter went unreturned.

“Anna Edwards of the Croydon Advertiser has been noticeably cool to the point of disinterest when I have spoken to her,” one campaigner wrote.

“Agree about Anna Edwards – I’ve given up with her, she doesn’t even return calls,” posted another. Let’s face it, Woodward and Bernstein you ain’t.

“Isn’t campaigning what all good local newspapers should be doing?” Ebrey asks, gauchely. To which the obvious answer is “Absolutely”. Trouble is, the Sadvertiser is rarely a leader in such matters, too often a timid follower.

“Next,” the much-afronted Ebrey simpers, “we are slammed for having the cheek to report documents we obtained before their official publication.” Go back and read our report again.

The paper was not “slammed”, as Ebrey claims in his best tabloid-speak. The leaking of the documents from someone within the council was used as further illustration that the “genuine consultation period” was all just a sham.

Then Ebrey starts to play with sophistry. “Last time I checked, our papers were distributed to more than 100,000 people a week.”

Oh dear. “Distribute” is a world away from people actively choosing to pay 60p for your newspaper, Glenn.

Your elders and better opted to make the Sadvertiser a part-free part paid-for because the title’s sales had dwindled to less than 16,000 per week, the lowest in its 140-year history. The most recent audited circulation certificate, for January to June 2010, is here.

It is worth noting that local residents, through door-knocking and savvy use of the internet, managed to generate nearly 30 times as many signatures for the parking campaign as the 250 that the Croydon Sadvertiser reported it collected.

It’s heartening, Glenn, to see that you defend your “hard-working” staff and “the dedication and hours they put into producing the paper each week”.

If you don’t mind, for now we’ll pass your offer for us to give up a day of our expertise to give your staff some training and show them how to do their jobs. And we will continue to judge them, and you, on results.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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