MP praises ‘incredible’ hyperlocal as yet another local newspaper closes

By Matt Abbott | 25th Jan 2019

The closure of the Harlow Star is an ‘extraordinary day’ for residents of Harlow says hyperlocal publisher and editor of Your Harlow and Your Thurrock, Michael Casey.

The paper announced its imminent closure in a Facebook post on the 23rd January stating: “It is with great sadness that we announce that next week’s edition of the Harlow Star newspaper will be the last.”

It reassured readers by saying that “we will continue to cover the latest stories from Harlow every day on our countywide website EssexLive.”

Hold the Front Page reported that Reach plc, the company that owns the Harlow Star, said the site had become ‘unsustainable’, although there will be no redundancies.

The closure is part of a trend by Reach of closing printed newspapers and replacing them with digital-only set-ups under the ‘Live’ banner. The Harlow Star will join LancashireLive, EdinburghLive, CornwallLive, and LeedsLive.

But hyperlocal publisher and editor Michael Casey said it was a sad day for the 80,000 residents of Harlow.

He said: “Harlow is a town with possibilities. not just that but its potential is being realised every day. We have a science park;’ Public Health England are bringing 3,000 jobs here; there’s a new junction on the M11 and there’s a garden town to the north.”

He added: “This area is changing. The idea that, in 2019, Harlow not having a newspaper, something tangible in that way, to read from cover to cover is very sad. 

“I still think there’s a place for a printed newspaper here, one that’s run on a different business model.”

Michael runs two hugely successful online newspapers in Essex: Your Thurrock which he set up in 2008, and Your Harlow which started in 2013. Both sites have gone from strength to strength, serving the community, breaking news and getting exclusives, some of which have gone global.

The success of Your Harlow was mentioned in a Facebook post by MP for Harlow Robert Halfon.

He said: “The Harlow Star’s closure will be a big loss of #community news for many residents who do not have access to the internet.

“We are very fortunate to have YourHarlow.com – an incredible online newspaper that is bringing our community together.”

Today, it has been announced that the Harlow Star newspaper is closing down. This is a tragedy for #Harlow.We have had…

Posted by Robert H Halfon on Wednesday, 23 January 2019

In a YouTube video, part of Michael Casey’s Hyperlocal Bible series in which he talks about hyperlocal journalism, he talks about what makes a good local reporter.

He says: “You have to have the presence on the ground. The presence at council meetings. The presence at the business networks, at the school assembly celebration event, at the football ground. Ultimately you have to be part of the community. 

“If someone invites you to the Holocaust Memorial event – be there. Or reviewing at the playhouse. Be there. You go to social events. You run very badly at the park run. All that adds up. And that’s the job of a local journalist. 

“If you’re not doing that, then that’s part of the problem. 

“There are examples of people running printed newspapers successfully. The team at Social Spider who run three newspapers out of London: the Waltham Forest Echo, Tottenham Community Press, and the new Enfield Dispatch; Bishop’s Stortford Independent and the rest of Illife group’s papers, the Edinburgh Reporter and many, many more. 

“I believe there is a future for a printed newspaper in Harlow.”

Reach also announced the closure of the Herts and Essex Observer, the Buckinghamshire Advertiser, and the Buckinghamshire Examiner.

Readers described the news of the Star’s closure as ‘tragic’, with one reader saying it was a ‘shame for all the old people who rely on your paper for news and events and no access to the internet’.

Another reader said: “This is very sad news. Unlike the printed edition, Essex live online doesn’t cover local grassroots sport, planning applications, letters to the editor, announcements, local charity, volunteering or schools. All of these sections were valuable to the community and will be missed by many.”

You can watch all of Michael’s Hyperlocal Bible videos here.

Your Harlow and Your Thurrock are members of the Independent Community News Network (ICNN). Click here to read more.

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