In the age of Coronavirus, it’s stories about swans which got readers reacting on social media

Local journalism’s new normal may well be having to convince readers that Coronarvirus-related stories are worth reading at all, if data on the sorts of stories being shared on social media is anything to go by.

While articles about the impact of lockdown continued to drive significant interest during June, data from Newswhip shows that articles about Coronavirus itself from the UK’s local press had very little cut-through.

The article with the most interactions on social media about the pandemic itself, a report by the Manchester Evening News on the possibility that the ‘R’ number had risen above 1 again, was interacted with 50,000 times — outside the top 20 for most engaging articles. A similar story in the Liverpool Echo was interacted with 38k times, while a report on LancsLive about calls to close Blackpool as cases spiked at the seaside resort was interacted with 29k times. A BelfastLive story about no news Covid-19 deaths in Belfast for three days in a row generated 26k interactions.

Indeed readers were more likely to engage with stories about swans than they were with the pandemic.

That’s not to say publishers are ignoring Covid-19. According to Newswhip, the brands we track for Behind Local News produced over 42k Coronavirus or Covid-19 stories, a mix of original journalism and national content syndicated via news agencies direct to websites. The 42k figure does include stories about lockdown-related activities, which do continue to engage readers.

The most shared, like and commented on story on social media from the loca press in June came from the Yorkshire Post, with 433k interactions to CCTV released after swans with eggs shot and killed in Leeds lake.

The Manchester Evening News’s story on why lockdown rule changes meant having sex with someone you don’t live with is illegal from today (June 1) was next with 192k interactions.

Black Lives Matter related stories were certainly being shared in June as protests in the wake of the death of American man George Floyd took place across the UK. A Scotsman story of Robert the Bruce statue at Bannockburn daubed with Black Lives Matter grafitti was the third most-shared, with 175k interactions.

WalesOnline was next, with perhaps the story closest to being about Coronavirus of any on our list this month. Shorter hairstyles will help stop spread of Covid, say hairdressers was interacted with 166k times.

The second swan related story in the top 10 was from the Manchester Evening News. Swan whose nest was smashed up with bricks ‘dies from a broken heart’. It was interacted with 109k times.

The Bournemouth Echo’s coverage of the statue of Scouting founder Baden-Powell being removed from Poole Quay was sixth with 93k interactions. It was also the most interacted with local press article on among Twitter’s key accounts according to NewsWhip in June.

KentLive’s coverage of a missing schoolgirl appeal for information was seventh with 89k interactions.

The Wolverhampton Express & Star’s story about huge queues outside a Midlands branch of Ikea as lockdown eased generated 88k interactions to be the 8th most engaged in June, while Iceland’s decision to adopt all of Chester Zoo’s penguins, reported by CheshireLive, was engaged with 79k times.

And completing the top 10 is another story about swans, this time from the MEN again. Outrage after thugs throw concrete slab onto swan’s nest, destroying unhatched eggs generated 72k interactions, and was related to the story which was fifth in the list.

The rest of the top 20:

11. Government U-turn on free school meal scheme thanks to Marcus Rashford — MEN. 68,343

12. Penny Lane road signs sprayed over in ‘disgraceful’ attack — Liverpool Echo.67,929

13. IKEA shoppers in disbelief over ‘five mile queues’ as stores reopen — MEN. 66,811

14. Woman raped, man dead, three stabbings as up to 6,000 attend illegal raves — MEN. 66,712

15. The four police officers now charged over the death of George Floyd — MEN. 62,135

16. Chester Zoo to reopen on June 15, PM set to announce tomorrow. CheshireLive. 61,177

17. Charles Bronson gets green light for parole hearing to be heard in public. YEP. 60,838

18. Queen Victoria memorial defaced with words ‘racist’ and ‘slave owner’. Bradford T&A. 57,834

19. Hundreds of Weston-super-Mare tourists trapped in mud. BirminghamLive.54,975

20. Liverpool officially most successful club as United trophies compared — Liverpool Echo. 54,000

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