April 2021 Review

A Year Ago

On Tuesday 23rd March 2021 the UK marked one year since the first Coronavirus lockdown with a national minute’s silence and a number of memorial services.  Little did we know at the outset quite what lay ahead of us.  Rightly, the main focus has been on the enormous human cost of the pandemic but, of course, many industries have also faced huge difficulties. Newspapers, for example, have experienced very tough times; the nationals have faced significant circulation falls but arguably the problems confronting local news outfits have been even more acute as they’ve had to deal with a triple whammy of less local news to report, a significant decrease in advertising revenue due to  local businesses tightening their belts  and falls in circulation caused by people, particularly the elderly, shopping less frequently.

Effect on Local News Information

However, it would be wrong to draw the conclusion from this that local news has become less relevant during the pandemic. Up and down the country there have been large increases to the footfall on local newspaper websites as a renewed hunger emerged amongst readers to know what was happening in their area, both in terms of the state of the virus and in how local people, businesses and services were coping. A typical example is provided by the Bishop’s Stortford Independent in Hertfordshire which saw its monthly web audience rise from 260,000 in January 2020 to 360,000 nine months later. This trend was acknowledged by the Queen in October when she said “the Covid-19 pandemic has once again demonstrated what an important public service the established news media provides both nationally and locally”.

How we came through

Consequently, Talking Newspapers such as the MDM arguably became more important than ever in their role of keeping their listeners informed and connected with their neighbourhood events at a time when many normal means of social contact were being restricted. But the TNs themselves have not been immune from challenges to be overcome.  Obtaining sufficient content has been problematic with much of the staple fare of local news such as with sports, events and community activities largely becoming an endangered species, whilst at the same time the technical process of producing the magazines has become immeasurably more difficult with recording studios suddenly becoming out of bounds. Generally speaking, TNs up and down the country did a terrific job of maintaining their service provision although not all were able to overcome the challenges presented to them. In Devon, at least one had to suspend recording during the lockdowns, whilst another continued but with a much slimmed down product.

The Last Year at MDM

But how did we fare at the MDM? – Let’s remind ourselves how the last 12 months has panned out:

Stage 1 : First Lockdown 24th March – 30th June 2020. Service maintained without a pause – the first edition occurred the day after lockdown with just Helen and Rod handling all roles . Subsequently, the Dynamic Duo rotated team leading duties aided by 7 readers, with 5 techs involved by the end of the first month.

Stage 2:  Studio Recording July 4th – 3rd Nov.

Stage 3: Second Lockdown 10th November 2020 – May 25th All eight team leaders were now on board. A total of 15 readers, comprising a mixture of Studio Team members plus others from the ‘standby’ list, shared reading duties over a roughly four-week cycle. There were four technicians and Helen and Anne took care of copying and despatch.

A Successful Outcome

Thus, thanks to a proper team effort we’ve managed to keep going throughout this momentous year without a single blip in the service. But it doesn’t end there – rather than resting on our laurels during the second lockdown, we’ve also manage to broaden the range of content we provide with the result that on average each recording is about 30 minutes longer that it was this time last year.

What does this all mean though?  – well it’s now the appropriate time for everyone involved to give themselves a hearty pat on the back – that’s an order!