Do you read your local paper? Do you even have one? Living in East London it's easy to forget that we do. And I'm not talking about the Evening Standard, which (notionally at least) covers the entire capital. I mean the hyperlocal neighbourhood papers with news about what's happening within a few miles of your door. Where I live there are two. There's East End Life, which is the sunny optimistic council freesheet that Eric Pickles can't ban, and which for some reason nobody ever posts through my letterbox. And then there's the proper paid-for local paper, the East London Advertiser. Just not for much longer.
The East London Advertiser is a long established title, published regularly since 1866. It's reported on Jack The Ripper, brought news of the Siege of Sidney Street and kept the East End updated on the Blitz. It's an award-winning title, even if now subsumed into the Archant publishing empire (and based in Ilford). You'll find the East London Advertiser in local newsagents and supermarkets for the princely sum of 60p, and it sells about 7000 copies a week. The latest edition leads with the death of a cyclist on the Bow Flyover Cycle Superhighway, and continues with news of the bloke who proposed to his girlfriend at Canary Wharf DLR. Stabbings, male rape and laptop theft, they're all in there, as well as reaction by stallholders to changes at Whitechapel Market and a campaign to save Wilton's Music Hall. Classifieds, sport, sudoku... all the usual, with the emphasis on what's going on across a broad swathe of Tower Hamlets. I've got my copy here - 48 packed pages of local stuff I could live without knowing, but stuff my life is richer for having read.
Alas the East London Advertiser is doomed. The last copy rolls off the presses next Thursday, and the following week morphs into something new. Roll on the Docklands & East London Advertiser, a new paper for Tower Hamlets formed by merging Canary Wharf freesheet The Docklands with the Victorian ELA. Why publish two newspapers when you can publish one? We're promised that the new paper will have increased pagination, which presumably means combining most of the stories which would have appeared in the old papers. It almost certainly means office workers at Canary Wharf reading tales of criminal woe in Bethnal Green, and residents in Bethnal Green reading reviews of the Thai bistros at Canary Wharf, whether that's of interest or not. Less focus, reduced targeting, broader geographical spread. Archant London editorial director Bob Crawley seems convinced it's a change for the better...
There's some perverse twisted logic there, which I don't quite believe, given that I bet most Tower Hamlets residents in the northern half of the borough visit Canary Wharf rarely if at all. And that makes me wonder about another peculiar aspect of the new hybrid paper. Apparently it'll be "distributed on a part paid-for and part-free model." That could mean a thin version given away for nothing and a full version available in newsagents. Or, more likely, it means the exactly the same newspaper will be available for free in some parts of the borough and at cost price in others. Indeed it wouldn't surprise me if bankers and office workers at Canary Wharf continue to pick up their freebie from bins in the shopping centre, as now, while hard-up pensioners in Bow and Stepney continue to pay 60p at their local newsagent for precisely the same document. That'd be ironic. We'll see.
Whatever, there's one more solo edition of the East London Advertiser to come, bringing to an end almost 150 years of history. The paper's done well, given the interminable decline of print media in recent years, and the fact that most of you lot now expect news online for free rather than paying for the privilege. Indeed there's been no need to shell out 60p for the ELA for some time, because the whole thing's available to flick throughonline should you care to look. But once 10th November comes round, and the title doubles up with Docklands, I suspect it may be a long time before a story from Bow makes the front cover again.