Boots closure story was surely worth publishing

Steve's baby daughter made amazing progress this week, or so his wife thought

STEVE CANAVAN: It was a lot of rattle over just a little roll

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There are perhaps few more unedifying sights than that of a group of rival journalists all seeking to get one up on each other. (Thinking about it, the collective noun should surely be ‘a squabble’.)

We’re by nature, you see, competitive types and strong on opinion. Hence the likelihood for any conversation about the business to soon get feisty.

So I was amused if not surprised to see the maelstrom of internet comment – mainly, it seemed, from journalists – after the publication of this story on the website of our sister paper The Mid Sussex Times last week.

‘Early shoppers at Boots in South Road, Haywards Heath, found the store closed this morning.

A sign on the door said: “Due to unforseen circumstances we do not have a pharmacist at present and so are unable to open this store.

“The store will open as soon as a locum pharmacist arrives, unfortunately we don’t yet know what time this will be.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused and thank our customers for their patience.” The store later opened.’

Many of the internet comments suggested that this was, in fact, a ‘non-story.’ The store’s closure was of no real consequence, it was argued, and anyway, the doors had already been reopened. ‘We can’t compete with this stuff’ said one critic. ‘Mid Sussex Times push boundaries of investigative journalism with Boots Opens A Bit Late’ opined another.

I’d beg to differ. Okay, the Boots temporary closure story wasn’t ever going to register high on the newsworthiness Richter Scale.

But it was surely a matter which people would talk about – and in my book, that’s news.

Some might have gone past the store when it was closed and learned later of its reopening thanks to their local newspaper website.

It wasn’t the only story on the site, of course. Meatier offerings include travellers’ criticism of a train company, a major disturbance in a street, and a knifepoint robbery. But to my mind the Boots story deserved its place – and showed again the depth of coverage offered by local newspapers.

Some may scoff at a report of a temporary pharmacy closure, but if the local paper had not published it, it’s unlikely that anyone else would have been finding out the information and making it available to all who were interested.