The Gloucestershire newsroom powered by quizzes, cakes … and a newsy county

Behind Local News
Oct 1, 2018 · 6 min read

In our latest newsroom tour, Rachael Sugden takes us around the GloucestershireLive newsroom…

Rachael Sugden, editor of GloucestershireLive, the Gloucester Citizen and Gloucestershire Echo

Tell us about your newsroom

The team at Gloucestershire Live is passionate, ambitious and incredibly hard working. And there’s a good balance between very experienced journalists and new digital whizz-kids, so there is a wealth of talent to draw on, no mater what the story.

It’s a cliche to say journalists never log off but that is absolutely the case for the Glos Live team. At the last count there were four whatsapp groups for different news teams — and all of them are full of messages late into the night and from the crack of dawn. I sometimes find myself actively encouraging staff to turn off their notifications once in a while for their own sanity. I also insist on staff taking back lieu time when they’ve gone above and beyond for a big story — which I hope means they know I appreciate their commitment.

Six months ago we split the content journalists into two teams, East and West (with the M5 effectively acting as the dividing line) and it’s brought some healthy competition into the newsroom — and while I don’t think they know it (they will now!) I do overhear reporters talking about ways for their team to top Chartbeat and lead the site, which is wonderful.

They don’t have to be asked to get cracking on something — the Glos Live team are always first on breaking news, they’re always thinking of the best angle to sell to a digital audience and they do it all with good humour — a positive, can-do attitude is the best attribute of everyone in the newsroom, without exception.

Ultimately, this means we strive to get the maximum out of every story, especially when big breaking news lands on our patch.

And the team genuinely get on, inside and outside the office, which makes the newsroom a fun place to be.

We have a rota for a weekly newsroom quiz (the team take that very seriously) which also includes our commercial colleagues (recently our sales director hosted a ‘name that tune’ music quiz).

A Rock Of Shame is presented to the losers’ team captain and wine or chocolates for the winners. The Gloucestershire print team usually take the title — but they are always happy to share their prize.

It’s important for all the journalists, print and digital, and the advertising team, to know each other, to have close working relationships and to understand we are all in this together.

And while this might sound obvious, I also try to make sure I personally thank people when they’ve written a brilliant story, when they’ve created a great-looking paper, or when they’ve gone the extra mile. I want them to know I appreciate what they do, day in, day out.

Cake is a regular feature in the office

We’ve been short-staffed the past few months and our digital performance against our targets does not reflect the effort the team are putting in — so there are regular deliveries of cakes, chocolates and other treats into the office, no matter what the page view number looks like.

We also have some passionate home-bakers whose efforts are always appreciated (and devoured).

We moved into new offices at the end of last year and we’re now recruiting new digital trainees to join the team — it feels like the Glos Live newsroom has taken important steps forward in the past 12 months and I’m proud to be part of that evolution.

What’s the best thing about covering your county?

Since I took over in Gloucestershire 12 months ago its been great to discover that exceptional local journalism, which everyone in the Glos Live team is passionate about, can deliver decent audience figures.

In the past 12 months we’ve produced in-depth content packages on homelessness, sex workers, poverty and anti-social behaviour, all of which have given us amazing page view figures and engagement and have challenged some of the demographic stereotypes in the county. People in the Shire are not all tweed-wearing horse owners in sprawling Cotswold mansions.

It’s a surprisingly newsy patch, thanks to the M5, stellar celebs, drugs gangs and internationally-renowned festivals and events.

What’s your newsroom most proud of from the last 12 months?

How much more confident everyone has become. All of the reporters are more fluent in their analytics than ever before, which is ensuring they are developing and pitching stories with their reader in mind. And they have all developed their digital storytelling — which means that what does go online is really good. Seeing them develop and improve as a team, from the old hands to the new recruits, is wonderful.

What stories are readers most likely to remember from your newsroom recently?

There are a few that have gone viral in the past few weeks: a chap who was denied service at an upmarket Wetherspoon-style chain because he was wearing a basketball vest ; Nick Knowles’ twitter rant about service in a Cheltenham cafe; and the Pope paying a ‘flying’ visit. And there’s also the time the city council agreed to rename a road Gareth Southgate Street and our head of online took some of the credit

Which stories stick out in your memory most from this newsroom?

Melissa Jones takes a bus for a spin

When the reporters put themselves out there in the name of news and entertainment (because both are valid and important to Glos Live readers) and really connect with the community they serve: Kim Horton cut the ribbon to officially open a new affordable housing development; Zasha Whiteway-Wilkinson took part in an onion-eating competition; Janet Hughes drove a steam train; Melissa Jones took a bus for a spin; and Ed Stilliard climbed the Cathedral. All gave us strong social media engagement and page views.

Kim Horton got to open a new affordable housing development

Gloucestershire is a big county, and Gloucester and Cheltenham very different places within it. How did you come up with a brand which worked across the whole county?

We stepped away from the heritage mastheads that used to define those two urban areas and looked at the county as a whole instead. Once we did that, it was fairly straightforward to establish commonalities across the post codes.

One of our reporters dubbed half our online readership the ‘B&M generation’, the rest are mainly aspirational two-working-parent families — we create content with both demographics in mind.

Ultimately online it’s about being more conversational and more open minded — and always, always, always putting people at the heart of everything we do.

We spend a lot of time talking about who the person is at the heart of the story we’re creating (and finding them), as well as the person we want to read it (and finding them, too).

The Glos Live reader wants to be entertained as much as they do informed — so we will put as much effort into what’s on content as we will breaking news.

In the past few months we’ve launched some really successful niche Facebook groups and we’re building new audiences around our new patches, all of which is really positive and shows we’re moving in the right direction.

Ultimately it’s really simple: it’s about creating content our audience want to read and presenting it in a way they will most likely engage with it.

If you had two sentences to convince someone to work in your newsroom, what would they be?

If you love to get stuck in and want to work with people who are positive and enthusiastic, creative and driven, this is a fast-paced newsroom in a very newsy patch.

And also we like cake.

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