Recently we gave Watford Observer subscribers the chance to ask me, the editor, anything they would like about how we work.

This could be a question about a local issue, our news coverage, how we make decisions or what makes the newsroom tick.

Being the editor used to mean deciding what we would tell readers in print, but now journalism can and should be a two-way conversation, and I'm happy to answer the questions below, which cover a range of subjects. 

Thank you to all the subscribers who submitted a question and thank you all for your continued support of the Watford Observer, which means we can continue to provide unrivalled local news coverage, sport reporting and features in Watford and the surrounding areas. 

Some of our readers also posted questions in the comments section instead of using the form. I've tried to cover as much as possible here.

If you’ve not had a response or would like to discuss anything further please email me at

Here are my answers to your questions.

Do your journalists get out and about to report on stories or are they stuck behind desks?

Our journalists do get out and about in the community but not as often as I would like. You always get a better story going out. However, often these decisions are made on a day to day basis because no day is the same. We send reporters to cover large community events, breaking news where possible and to speak to people and businesses in the communities we serve. Our sports reporter Andrew French is well respected covering Watford FC on and off the field - including the women's and the youth team. However, getting reporters out on patch must be balanced with the demands of having a strong online schedule and regular stories filed throughout the day. Inevitably this means working in the office, or at home, so reporters can file copy regularly because they have to produce a certain amount each day. With a small team managing their time is a big challenge. Sometimes we only have one reporter covering Watford on a particular day so getting out to meet people is not always possible.

I have both a printed subscription and an online subscription to the Watford Observer. Would it not be possible to combine these two?

Firstly, thank you for showing your support for the Watford Observer by committing to an online subscription and a newspaper subscription. Both are incredibly important to us, and the success of the Watford Observer relies on support for both the newspaper and are online coverage. We don’t have a mechanism to enable us to roll both into one package, however, a couple of people have contacted me about this so I will look into this with the subscription team to see the likelihood of this in the future. I can’t promise anything will change but I will certainly raise the issue and see if it’s possible or if there are plans in the future to do this.

Are news reports and articles proof-read by sub-editors or other staff prior to being published on the website?

In the most part, yes. All stories are edited by a content editor before being published, except for a few instances. Breaking news published early in the morning and after office hours in the evening will sometimes be published by a reporter if it needs to go up straight away to inform readers about an immediate incident e.g. a road closure, and it's the same at weekends in terms of early hours reporting. However, reporters will have at least a few months' experience behind them before they are given these shifts and if unsure, they can always contact an editor to check a story even out of hours. I realise if we’re asking people to subscribe and pay for our online stories, like we do the newspapers, the quality and accuracy must be a priority for the reporter and news editor who approves the copy before publication. 

What's going on with the W2CL consultation. The Watford Observer wrote a bit about it and then the consultation was meant to have ended 2023 August but nothing more has been said about it.

If you’re referring to the Watford to Croxley line the simple answer is there has been no significant update as of yet that we've seen. However, this is an important story and I’ve asked our reporter Fintan McGuinness to push for an update and find out more about this issue as there has been a significant period of time since we last covered this. The last story we did got a lot of attention so we do need to update readers and keep a close eye on this. I hope to have an update soon.

What are you doing about the readers who hijack the comments section on many articles and can they be banned? Why can you not comment on some stories?

Unfortunately, there is a small, but committed, group of people who are intent on leaving nasty comments on our stories. We want the Watford Observer to be a website for everyone to use and get involved in debating news, so we spend a lot of time deleting and blocking these accounts. Unfortunately, at the moment it's relatively easy for these people to create new accounts and continue leaving hateful comments even if they're blocked so blocking them does not solve the problem. Our developers are working on an additional level of verification that will make it more difficult for people to continually make new accounts. At the moment when someone presses the 'report' button on a comment it triggers an email that allows us to review and decide to delete the comment or block the user as a last resort. We’re a commenting platform, however, sometimes we must turn comments off on an article for legal reasons or because the high volume of abuse in the thread. Our rules regarding comments can be found online.

Too much 'copy and paste' with a lot of articles. Very little investigative journalism these days. Are reporters stuck to their chairs rather than going on-site for articles, or are they all working from home? Also, I understand your owners Newsquest are country-wide but why do we still get articles nothing to do with our area? Proof-reading and spelling/grammar errors and omission of important facts which make the article non-sensible.

Clearly, we do handle a lot of submitted content, but ‘copy and paste’ is not what we want journalists doing. Whatever type of information and content a reporter or news editor handles should be well crafted and added to, not just published as it is. We would love to do more investigative journalism but with two core Watford reporters sometimes we have to factor in how much time we can invest in a particular story or issue, however it's an area we're keen to develop. I will look at freeing them up to work on longer, more complex stories in the background during their day-to-day job. Quite often we are too tied up dealing with stories in the moment. As mentioned in the previous question, our reporters do not go to everything but do attend large breaking news, community events and get out to patch when they can. Sadly, this is not as much as I would like and certainly not every day. There is a mixture of working in Watford and sometimes at home depending on the news agenda. We’re making more effort to get reporters out on patch for off-diary stories and will continue to prioritise this. Yes, owners Newsquest are a huge company with daily and weekly papers across the whole country. I imagine a lot of the stories you’re talking about are published to our site by the Press Association. We have a wire service where PA publish national stories to all Newsquest sites. These would have all been proofed and approved by a news editor or editor at PA but we have no control over them and they will not be local stories. We carry national news so our readers can hopefully get their local and national news in one place. We also have a UK wide arm of Newsquest for generic stories that are the same across all the sites. Balance is the key issue here. We need enough local content, so the national content does not appear to overbearing. I will look at this to make sure we have the right mix and balance. In terms of ‘the old days’ I can’t say I disagree with you. Years ago, the industry faced different challenges but today we have to balance getting good, local, accurate news with a small news team, handling social media and website demands while maintaining standards. This is not intended as an excuse. If we’re asking people to pay for our newspaper or subscribe online and pay we must do better at publishing quality content and high volumes of local content.