The ‘incredible challenges’ that have faced production of the Shropshire Star over the last 12 months were outlined in a Zoom meeting by the paper’s editor-in-chief Martin Wright.

In a presentation to a Zoom meeting of the Club, he lucidly described through a series of slides how the news agenda had changed due to coronavirus and how it had affected the editorial team at the Shropshire Star. Martin spoke candidly to us of the impact the coronavirus had had on the mental health of staff, more noticeable in the second period of the lockdown, which continued to ‘remain a concern.’

“There’s a real sense of fatigue and that has had an impact on the way people are feeling about their jobs and lives generally and that is something we are keeping a close eye on to make sure staff have all the support they need”. He said that hopefully April would signal a return to some normality and the return of the popular Shrewsbury Chronicle as well as how they could bring staff back to the office. “We are making plans to bringing people back in and there is a sense of some renewed optimism, but we are much more cautious and we are really aware we have previously had our fingers burnt before.”

Through a series of slides he showed Rotarians how Covid-19 had impacted on the core team in the offices of the Shropshire Star, with the bustling newsroom reduced to just three people, with all other journalists working remotely. Following the government’s announcement last March 16 for people to work from home if possible the Shropshire Star initially retained a core team of eight people in the office to produce the newspaper, but this was reduced further as staff quickly adapted to the demands of producing a newspaper remotely. “There was a huge question of how do we present this information to our readers and it was a real challenge. Producing a newspaper without people in the office, we wanted to be helpful and responsive, but it became clear we were facing an unprecedented situation.” But he said he was proud of the way the team had responded and had continued to deliver trusted news to readers throughout the pandemic.

He told us that the speed of the vaccinations had been ‘positive and incredible.’  He hoped that in April the company could bring back the Shrewsbury Chronicle and they were also making plans to bring people back into the office when the government advice on working from home changes. “There’s a sense of some renewed optimism, but this time we are much more cautious and we are really aware that we have previously had our fingers burnt. But we are hoping this is going to be the route out of lockdown.”

He concluded by announcing to Shrewsbury Severn Rotary Club that the Shropshire Star is to launch a new app designed for mobile phones – a development that one Rotarian John Yeomans assured he would be ready to test.

Julian Wells

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