All change in the Hampshire Chronicle newsroom - Press Gazette

All change in the Hampshire Chronicle newsroom

Since its first appearance as a single-page newsletter on 24 August 1772, the weekly Hampshire Chronicle has always reported what is going on the county. But 230 years later, the environment its reporters work in, the tools they use and their day-to-day lives are barely recognisable.

The Chronicle of 1907 had few pages, had no photographs and was printed on the paper's own presses in the paper's offices, next door to the newsroom.

Today's edition, more than 50 pages and with a circulation in excess of 16,000, is put together on computer screens and printed 25 miles away.

The paper has recently developed a "web-first"

strategy and publishes breaking news on its website before printing it in the newspaper and the team has begun publishing a video story online once a week.

The Chronicle got its first linotype [automatic type-setting machine] in 1904 — in 1990 it had eight, one of them 60 years old. A staff photograph from 1902 shows 36 people — the office now has about 15 editorial staff.

Steve Robinson, 65, one of the Chronicle's longest-serving journalists, wrote the paper's official history Black and White in the 1990s. In the introduction he wrote: "You no longer have to read it from the printed page. You can now call up extractsfrom the Hampshire Chronicle on the Internet.

Could James Linden, slaving away over his crude, single-page press in 1772, ever have imagined that the newspaper he started would one day be available on the day of publication anywhere in the world at the touch of a button?"

Robinson began as a reporter in 1960 and was made editor in 1987. He retired 10 years ago and has seen immense changes in production, staffing levels and technology.

He sees the introduction of computers as the main change and admits that for the Chronicle the change was a long time in coming. The Chronicle got rid of its typewriters in 1991.

"It may sound silly, but the first thing that strikes me is there is no smoke. When I joined every single member of the reporting staff smoked. It's also quieter —computers don't make quite as much noise as the old typewriters," he says.

"It was an industrial process then: there were bits of paper flying around everywhere, you would hand it in to the subs, it would then go off to the linotypes.

It's much more like an office process now."

Brian Mustoe is the Chronicle's current news editor and joined in 2005. When asked how he spends most of his day, the answer is instant: "Reading emails.

That is a large percentage of it. I've been in journalism since the late '60s and everything was done with post. It came in twice a day — the pile would go down and then the second lot would come in.

"Then the fax came in and things starting coming on a continuous basis. But now you have email which is 24 hours a day. It's really changed the way newsrooms operate."

The modern Chronicle has moved into the paperless world of online news. In recent weeks Mustoe and his team have adopted a "web-first" strategy and post some breaking news on their website straight away without saving it for the newspaper. "As far as weeklies are concerned, reporters are being asked to behave like they're on dailies."

Despite the technological advances, Mustoe makes sure that Chronicle reporters continue one of the trade's oldest traditions, getting out on to the streets to find stories. He says: "We still send reporters out on to their patch. As a local newspaper we are keen to build that local readership.

People still relate better to someone they have met.

A lot more people are on the phones than when I started, but we prefer people to be out there doing it face to face."

Today's Chronicle team doesn't just write about what happens in their patch —they film it. One video a week goes up on the website, and Mustoe feels that today's journalist has to be far more multiskilled than their predecessors.

"We're going down the road of video and there are a lot more things journalists are expected to know," he says. "We do one a week at the moment on our website, but we're looking to train more people how to do it.

"In our daily news conferences we are looking at the coming week and thinking what is going to be a good video clip too."

Much has changed, but for Mustoe the similarities between the Chronicle in 1907 and today's version are just as striking as the differences: "It's still local news for local people, although we're possibly not as much of record in as much detail as then.

"If you look back at the paper 100, 75 or 50 years ago it's amazing how many stories are cyclical.

Everything almost seems to have been going on forever."