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Bucks Free Press

Hi all. I'd like to ask what you think of the coverage of Wycombe by the Bucks Free Press, what it does well and what it doesn't do as well. I'm intrigued as a guy who started on my local paper in Southend covering league and non-league football and graduated to the nationals. Appreciate helpful comments.

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Comments

  • edited February 25

    I don't have any useful BFP feedback for you beyond this public service announcement: Please don't, under any circumstances, visit the BFP website without some sophisticated adblocking installed - at the very least in your browser, but if possible also at the network level.

    This is the map of network requests made visiting the BFP home page:


    Live version here.

    Every one of those red, purple or green dots is a connection to ad networks and spyware. And all of those are then making requests to more ad and spyware networks. The BFP is just a data harvesting machine and it's impossible to know where all the data they harvest about you is actually ending up, but I can say with some degree of certainty that with that level of tracking, someone, somewhere is able to connect that data specifically to you as an individual.

  • A quick trip to the BFP on Safari tells me that 41 trackers have been blocked from profiling me. The last 30 days count has been 61 of them and I think I've been on it twice in that period.

  • The Gasroom has one blocked by Safari - Google analytics.

  • I keep meaning to remove Google Analytics, thanks for the reminder.

  • I know you posted some advice a while ago @drcongo but any chance of reminding us less than tech savvy bods how best to avoid all that. On a phone on my case as I think I’m ok on my pc

  • On an iPhone (and Mac) I'd recommend 1Blocker, I'm not so sure about Android I'm afraid, but then if you're using Android you're already being spied on left, right and centre anyway.

    For network level blocking I highly recommend NextDNS - I use that behind a PiHole plus browser based blockers for good measure. Edward Snowden is easier to track than me.

  • I never really look at the BFP...and judging by the messages above...I've made a wise choice.

  • Dont bother with the BFP anymore, local coverage is awful compared to years ago, no local leagues at all, they used to print scores, tables, small reports, now nothing. In the summer you used to get local cricket scorecards and some reports, again now nothing, unless its Wycombe or Beaconsfield. That's just football and cricket, I remember when you could keep track of all the local pub darts leagues as well !

  • Do I remember seeing local junior leagues' scores and tables in there too a long time back?

  • In the 80's you had all the wycombe & Risborough district junior leagues, results, tables and brief round up of matches with goal scores.
    And pretty much every village cricket club's scorecards.
    The BFP is truly appalling compared to the product it offered in bygone years.

  • And all the Wycombe sunday combination league, scores and tables... all Nine divisions !

  • edited February 25

    Yeah, used to have decent write ups on the Sunday leagues.

    The Wycombe Star used to do the same for local youth football.

    I believe some members of this parish once wrote the Wycombe reports for the Star as well, and very good they were too

  • The Bfp lost a lot of good will from me during the dark days of the ground share. I stopped buying it when we were demoted to the inside pages and after that infamous piece β€œAre they still Wycombes Wanderers” I vowed never to return. What was the name of that guy?

  • Worth pointing out that today’s BFP isn’t even remotely the same organisation that used to do all these good things. It’s owned by Newsquest now, the worst thing to happen to journalism since Murdoch.

  • @drcongo said:
    On an iPhone (and Mac) I'd recommend 1Blocker, I'm not so sure about Android I'm afraid, but then if you're using Android you're already being spied on left, right and centre anyway.

    For network level blocking I highly recommend NextDNS - I use that behind a PiHole plus browser based blockers for good measure. Edward Snowden is easier to track than me.

    Thanks. On an iPhone so I’ll give it a go

  • @MorrisItal_ said:
    The Bfp lost a lot of good will from me during the dark days of the ground share. I stopped buying it when we were demoted to the inside pages and after that infamous piece β€œAre they still Wycombes Wanderers” I vowed never to return. What was the name of that guy?

    Alan Feldburg ?

  • @ChasHarps said:

    @MorrisItal_ said:
    The Bfp lost a lot of good will from me during the dark days of the ground share. I stopped buying it when we were demoted to the inside pages and after that infamous piece β€œAre they still Wycombes Wanderers” I vowed never to return. What was the name of that guy?

    Alan Feldburg ?

    That’s him

  • @ChasHarps said:
    In the 80's you had all the wycombe & Risborough district junior leagues, results, tables and brief round up of matches with goal scores.
    And pretty much every village cricket club's scorecards.
    The BFP is truly appalling compared to the product it offered in bygone years.

    Yep, I've still got the clippings of my junior leagues including a rare mention of my name when I occasionally scored a goal.

  • Did we have a paper called the leader that had all the junior football in too?

  • I used to love reading the BFP every Friday and the coverage was really comprehensive - going through Phil Ball’s Wix site there are some brilliant pieces on there of the glory years. There were some quality journalists who worked for the BFP and went on to nationals, maybe it’s harder now.

    I do also think it’s hard for the BFP to be relevant with so many different sources of info on digital channels. We are blessed to have so many fans who produce quality content so I’m not really sure where the BFP fits in. Nothing against it but I wouldn’t instinctively go there now for any source of truth or unique stories.

    That said, I do think there is still a place for a local sports newspaper. By comparison, the Maidenhead Advertiser is excellent. The quality of the match reports and news stories are excellent covering all local non-league clubs and there is good coverage of grassroots too - it feels like it’s the paper the BFP used to be. For a while it was free and delivered to homes but is now a paid for paper only in newsagents. The writers engage really well on social too and provide great insight (I just quickly looked on Twitter and saw the BFP writers do tweet their stories but you probably wouldn’t say it’s essential to follow them to keep up to date with Wycombe)

    As has been stated above the digital version of the BFP is terrible and littered with ads, thanks to drcongo - I have now downloaded 1blocker as a result of reading this thread!

  • The Chesham Sunday League, (which I played in for years), was also well covered, but I think that was in the Bucks Advertiser? Had comprehensive reports on top two divisions, some reports on the next two & every result. Plus the two cups, the Combination Cup the League Cup and the District Cup. Sure I have some clippings in the loft somewhere of my clubs exploits?

  • Having worked in Maidenhead for many years I used to buy the Maidenhead Advertiser (and still do occasionally) and as @NoelAshford says above, it is a brilliant newspaper for local news particularly sport. It is a shame that the content and standard of the BFP is so poor in comparison.

  • The Watford Observer used to be excellent for sport as well with the great Oli Phillips covering football for years and years

    Haven't seen it in ages though

  • The Slough Observer was very good back in the day. In depth coverage of both Slough Town and Windsor.

  • Strange how differently we see things. I agree that the BFP could be more comprehensive in its sports coverage, but they now devote much more space to WWFC (three full pages in today’s edition) so it depends on your priorities.
    I also take the Maidenhead Advertiser and disagree that its news coverage is superior to the BFP. Personally, I think the opposite is true.

  • To be honest can't see how local weekly papers business model can work. Whereas in the old days you may have bought the paper on a Friday for the previous weeks local league results, nowadays I presume they are online before the end of the weekend. Similarly any WWFC news and reports will have been online same day and well out of date by end of week and local news stories can be read on the BFP website real time. Why buy the paper copy a few days later to read a story you have already read online.

    If few buy the paper, advertising revenue must be minimal and even the classified adds must now largely be online. Advertising revenue on the BFP website cant be huge. I know they have slashed costs but hard to see the business model nonetheless.

  • I have to agree with DevC. My first job was on a local newspaper and I am sad to see their demise since the onset of online news. Generations now get their news (including national and international) from electronic media and you have to wonder how much longer small papers like the BFP can survive this change in people’s reading habits.

  • @drcongo said:
    I don't have any useful BFP feedback for you beyond this public service announcement: Please don't, under any circumstances, visit the BFP website without some sophisticated adblocking installed - at the very least in your browser, but if possible also at the network level.

    This is the map of network requests made visiting the BFP home page:


    Live version here.

    Every one of those red, purple or green dots is a connection to ad networks and spyware. And all of those are then making requests to more ad and spyware networks. The BFP is just a data harvesting machine and it's impossible to know where all the data they harvest about you is actually ending up, but I can say with some degree of certainty that with that level of tracking, someone, somewhere is able to connect that data specifically to you as an individual.

    Genuine question Doc, presumably whoever runs the BFP website is aware of this issue. Are they unable or simply unwilling the stop it? And if so why?

  • Shrewd question @Shev - and actually the answer is in @DevC's post above. Revenue from sales and advertising is not enough to actually sustain the paper as an entity so that network graph you see is their business model. NewsQuest buy up struggling local newspapers and turn them into data harvesting machines - they make money now by selling information about you to others. Having been through multiple weird business models including a thing where buying their newspapers earned you supermarket coupons, it seems they've settled on a model where they reduce the staff on regional papers to the bare minimum, the "news" in them is essentially churnalism, and the websites are designed to do nothing more than use their readership as data currency.

    It's a pretty sad state of affairs, especially considering the comparatively healthy state of regional news in the US - but news in the US has always been regional. Even the national newspapers over there are regionals that just got big.

    It's also not just a regional news problem, the nationals here are still going through the same problems that killed the regionals, they've just got deeper pockets to try to ride it out. The problem is the speed of the modern news cycle along with the fact that it's all freely available - not enough people want to pay for good journalism and paywalls are ineffective, doing as much harm as good - your story can't go viral behind a paywall.

    All of these are problems I've been thinking, writing and speaking about for years and in some cases working on too. There are some interesting initiatives around micropayments (Interledger is a notable newish development) which I really hope gain some traction, because without traction they're useless. But as of right now, the only thing that works is essentially an honour system - ask people to subscribe just because they believe in quality, open journalism and a free press. Some of the best investigative journalism happening in the UK right now is coming out of independents that do it because they believe in what they're doing - openDemocracy, The Canary, Byline Times, TBIJ, Tribune among many others. Disclaimer: I subscribe to two of those, built one of them, and most of them might be considered left of centre.

    I think pretty soon a lot of the old media won't exist. NewsQuest's IV drip into your private life will get cut off through regulation and better awareness, a lot of the big nationals will eventually run out of money or reach a point where they're not worth subsidising and the independent media like those above will win out on quality. However, we really have to hope enough people decide quality journalism is worth paying for for the independents to survive too, otherwise we'll be living in Idiocracy within ten years.

  • edited February 26

    I worked at the BFP for a very happy few years in the production department. And if you fancied a dabble doing gig reviews or match reports to fill in the gaps, that was always an enjoyable option for a few of us.

    Thursday's were the longest and finest days of the working week. We used to do the Watford papers in production at Gomm Road and for me, it was generally a complete sports fest.

    I was privileged to work on the Watford Observer every Thursday and as @eric_plant notes, it was a quality paper throughout, but especially for sport. Ollie Phillips was a one-off - a great raconteur, totally disorganised, always pushing deadlines while sniffing out stories and often very late after random detours that i suspect may have been related to mileage claims! I never minded once that he'd completely scrap my morning's work and get it remade because he'd had a whisper from one of his contacts about something cracking off. They also had Andy French who was about the most enthusiastic person I've ever worked with - he went on to be press officer at Watford around Vialli's time and now is head off media for Butlins of all things!

    And on BFP you had Pete and Claire who were both an absolute pleasure to work with. Me and Neil Peters used to do Wycombe Star reports, the idea being to give a different angle to the BFP. I still have a lovely letter that Alan Smith sent to the editor Alan Cleaver (who had no interest in sport at all, more a UFO man) asking for me to be sacked after one particular article. Cleaver wrote back to say as I was unpaid, he wasn't sure if he could legally do that!

    As he was not into sport, Alan Cleaver insisted our coverage had to be on pages 2 and 3 as he said a free paper would land on the doormat facing either up or down and if people who didn't like sport saw a football report they would probably bin the paper. That's why The Star randomly had general news stories front and back.

    Towards the end, The Star was just a trailer for the BFP, but in the early to mid-nineties it was genuinely independent. Different writers, separate office. Even in production, it was done in a different room with screens up at the windows to stop BFP reporters nicking stories, but only when they had something good. Chris Cowley, the BFP deputy editor and a total wind-up merchant, used to offer to buy me a pack of fags if I'd tell him what was going on in there, as he knew there were only screens up when there was something he probably didn't know about.

    Anyway, thank you for indulging me with my therapy session. It was the best place I ever worked and I doubt I'll ever enjoy a day's work more. It's sad to see what it has become (as @drcongo mentioned, the takeover of Westminster Press by Newsquest was the start of it all). Feel sorry for the people there now - what can you do with literally no budget and a brief to generate clicks?

    Finally, my wife used to work as a journalist at the Maidenhead Advertiser. It was (and I think still is) run by a family Trust, so probably not being screwed into the ground on cost by a company like Newsquest.

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