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CASE STUDY #5: The Ambler

Updated: May 7, 2020

Area of influence: Amble, Northumberland


Follow: @TheAmbler

During the Covid-19 crisis, The Ambler continues to engage with the community and support locals. While print is their main means of publication, they now find themselves looking for new ways to reach their community online.

The Ambler is a community newspaper for the town of Amble, Northumberland. Run by one part-time worker and a dedicated team of volunteers, the title began publication in January 2000 and has been producing six issues a year ever since.

The Ambler aims to keep local people in touch with local events, delivering a free newspaper to every house and business in Amble and a number to neighbouring communities. The title tries to engage everyone in the local community, even it's youngest residents; its centre pages are created by the 'Artograffiti' group, a collective of young local writers.

The Artograffiti centre page of The Ambler

The title also has a popular Twitter account and a well-supported Facebook page.

Finding alternatives to print during the crisis

While usually a print title, due to the crisis the last issue of The Ambler couldn’t be printed or delivered, something its editor, Anna, found “devastating.”

In place of the print edition, Anna has been posting a PDF page a day of the latest edition on Facebook which has been well received. The title’s online audience is growing, but as a hyperlocal serving a community of 6,300 people with limited budget for advertisements, it is hard to gain much traction on Facebook and Twitter.

Despite this online growth, many locals are still contacting Anna to ask where the latest paper:

"We should never forget how many people are not online.” Anna Williams, Editor.

Beyond traditional journalism

The Ambler has always worked hard to engage with the Amble community, but it has broadened its efforts to help support locals during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’ve talked to local businesses, individuals and groups about what they are doing during the lockdown. I’ve put together a list of useful contacts, and links to sites for financial help, as there are a lot of small businesses in Amble.” Anna Williams, Editor, The Ambler

The Ambler is seemingly the first organisation in the area to create resources like these, and feedback from locals has shown that the contacts list has proved really useful to people trying to find information about which shops are still open and delivering locally.

In addition to signposting helpful resources for local residents and small businesses, The Ambler has also sought to capture the experience of life under lockdown, publishing a blog written by a local teenager as she documents her life with no school, during what should have been an incredibly important time in her life; her GCSE exam term.

Despite rising to the challenge of the pandemic, Covid-19 has nevertheless had a serious impact on The Ambler’s operations. While Editor Anna is usually supported by a group of volunteers, most of them are retired and are now isolating, so Anna has to produce what she can from home.

The Ambler is a great example of a hyperlocal independent news provider adapting to the difficult circumstances of Covid-19 and going above and beyond to continue to support its readership and local community during these tough times. The impact it is having, and the obvious demand for its now halted print edition, is another example of why we need to #saveindependentnews.

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