The Hexham Courant, our local weekly paper

A clipping of the masthead

Now published, and also appearing the same day in the shops, every Thursday, the Hexham Courant has been the local paper of record for many decades, having amalgamated papers from the surrounding towns and villages into its fold throughout the past century.

Increasingly irrelevant, like much of print media it has to be said, in the daily lives of local folks, much of its content and information provision has been superseded by social media, facebook in particular, as for example at Allendale area notices. And yet, though sales have slumped rather dramatically (I remember when the weekly order at Allendale’s MarketPlace was something like 650 copies, but it’s now down to about 300, I believe), and advertising revenue too has fallen, still there’s something about the tangible printed page that keeps the attention.

Several of the items in this ‘Year in the Life of a Village’ have been stimulated by stories in the Courant, for example, as conscientiously attributed. Now, as the diary continues to try to provide a comprehensive picture of this year in this village, it’s the turn of the paper itself to be featured.

We ourselves always page through the paper, quite earnestly looking for any mentions of Allendale and its surrounds, just to keep up, you know, and at the same time I’m wondering how to incorporate the local news items into the diary. Quite a haul in last week’s issue, invoking Geoff Jackson’s forty years at the helm of Langley Furniture Works, Langley Castle’s Hallowe’en horror night, and Natural Ability‘s milestones.

In recent weeks we’ve read a moving memorial tribute to Doug Murray (see clipping below); a piece on Northumberland Community Bank with Allendale’s own Lauren Langton showing off the mobile phone app, a piece on the visit of our North of Tyne mayor to Higher Ground, features on the Allen Valleys Folk Festival, and the bellringers at St. Cuthbert’s church, to cite just a few contemporary examples. Sometimes the diary gets the story first, and other times the diary follows up items first described in the paper.

A clipping of the tribute to Doug Murray, so much appreciated by local folks, in a recent Courant.

Of the items mentioned above, just for the record, the diary has yet to include a piece on Natural Ability or the bellringers, but these are being developed!

I imagine that the Hexham Courant exists by advertising revenue, with retail sales of the paper providing only a small proportion of its income. Certainly property sales advertisements have seen a big boost in recent months. And then there’s local controversial matters, which any paper naturally loves to exploit, seeking to gain readership to please its advertisers. But when readers have already got the same, or a similar story, with immediacy on facebook, they may not feel the need to read further in print. It’s a conundrum for most papers.

Still the Courant struggles on, in its relatively new ‘enhanced tabloid’ format, with its feature sections (the pullout Weekender, the Business, Motors, Property and Sports sections) and the monthly Tynedale Life, as well, or as ?superseded by, the new Tyne Valley Living magazine. And the stories pull the readers in. It’s been sad though, to recognise the demise of any reviews in the paper; everything now is promotions centred, and the art and craft of a well-honed review that says rather more than it seems to, has somehow bit the dust. Old news, I guess, is merely the lining of bird cages.

But the paper still gets my attention, anyway! I can’t think I’ve ever been prouder of our local newspaper than when Allendale was named Calor Village of the Year for all England, and featured on the front page. Indeed, I used to write rather a lot for the paper, but it’s nice to have retired to relative quietude trundling along with daily diary entries about this patch. I think it’s when our local paper conscientiously serves the needs of its readers, that it attracts deserved attention, and maybe that sort of dedication can help the Courant weather the vicissitudes and onslaughts of other online information sources.

Meanwhile, today’s Courant, published as it is on Hallowe’en, will doubtless feature even more abundant ghoulies and ghastlies than in last week’s, so I’d better finish this piece with one I prepared earlier! As it became clear and yet more clear yesterday that a General Election would definitely happen on the 12th of December, all we can say here is: Happy Hallowe’en!

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