All posts by Richard Cox

Save local news – it’s a national artery

Local newspaper sales in the UK fell by an average of 13.5% in the first half of 2014, year-on-year compared to last year. That is a tragedy for an industry and a service that has been the bedrock of how we communicate for well over a 100 years. Local and regional newspapers have been a flagship of our democracy.
And how does the industry react? What are publishers doing to protect our local media outlets? They are:
• Sacking trained reporters, sub-editors and editors
• Switching from print to, frankly, ill-designed and ennui-ridden web sites
• Shutting newspaper offices so the news in, say, Yorkshire, is edited by a sub in South Wales
• Riding roughshod over the legalities of making sure that news reporting is fair and not ‘manna from heaven’ for solicitors
Worst of all is the experiment in Lincolnshire where a well-respected local news sheet is now filled with material provided solely by residents.
Come off it publishers. That’s what social media, the digital revolution, is for: it isn’t a way to provide intelligent, thinking residents with a professional, considered, well-delivered and well-designed service. Newspaper web sites are dreadful – and that’s what it means to me: they fill me full of dread for the future.
So how important is news? It’s vital, it’s the foundation on which we build opinions and considered comment, it is at the core of what we hold dear as citizens of the UK.
If you have your car serviced do you take it to a garage stocked with people who know one end of a spanner from the other, even though they use the software on a computer for much of the work? You don’t? You leave it out on the street with the bonnet open and a bag of spanners next to it so that everyone passing can have a go?
Yes. I know news gathering and communicating is a business, but there is a place for local news, and advertising will be profitable. Maybe the problem is, yet again, greed. Shareholders demand excessive returns to the medium and long term detriment of the product and sales. That this is folly is amply demonstrated by an average drop in sales of13.5% in an industry that I hold close and dear.

Spellcheck editing – a fiend or foe?

As a reader and an author, accurate and detailed proof reading is paramount.
There is little more annoying when reading the work of a debut or new novelist and finding those irritating little mistakes that make me have a mental hiccup; where a misplaced or misspelt word throws out the narrative flow while I have to think what should have been said.
So many novels encase and envelope the reader in a world of fiction, fantasy, erotica even; the beautifully crafted words weave wonderful worlds to immerse in, to flounder, to let the adrenalin flow – and then there’s a gross spelling mistake that dumps the reader back in a mundane world of black type on white paper. It’s a shame.
I can handle mistakes involving, for example: the, then, they, their, there, they’re etc. What is less easy are the more blatant problems, such as:
• Vicious and frightening ‘rouges’ – where I presume the author means ‘rogues’
• ‘My my’ – where the author, I think, means ‘my’ not the mildly surprising double use of the word.
Unfortunately, at times of high literary drama mistakes such as these are a disturbing distraction for the reader.
It is a dichotomy. We need more publishers prepared to invest in authors, but they need to survive in a fiercely competitive climate, so costs must be minimised. What is, I believe, vital is to invest in a professional proof reader, and then also to inveigle critical friends on the clear understanding that their reward will be in heaven.
My debut novel may have unintended grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, but it has been physically proof read. I’ve done my bit, even though it may not be perfect.
My plea is: Can we dump the computer spellcheck and go back to human eyes.

First Dead Body – at Gresty Road, Crewe: Saturday, August 16.

I will have copies of First Dead Body with me for the first Crewe Alex home game of the season on Saturday, August 16.
If anybody wants a signed copy. I’m on mobile; in my usual little plastic seat near the halfway line; and will be parked in the same place as always. Message me, and I’ll know how many to bring.
Let’s make it a great day for the wonderful Alex … and for First Dead Body, of course.