Southend News Network was originally started in October 2015 with no real aims or objectives in mind other than to add a satirical/spoof-like touch to issues that people are passionate about in Southend On Sea. Above all else, SNN is all about having the occasional ‘dig’ at the powers that be, as well a slightly bigger and more frequent ‘dig’ at certain elements of local media!
As the self-declared Chief Reporter of Southend News Network (the single person who makes up the Southend News Network ‘team’), he has chosen to keep his identity under wraps for now. However, this may change in the future! Contrary to what a lot of people believe, the Chief Reporter is a ‘born and bred’ Southender who actually loves his home town, and he loves nothing more than getting local residents talking about the issues that matter to them the most.
It could be closing the Dartford Tunnel due to the threat of people from Kent walking through it (*1), catching a weekly ‘Swingers Club’ meeting in the car park at Waitrose (*2), or even local OAP gangsters hiding £300m of cocaine in custard cream biscuits (*3) – it seems that the people of South Essex are willing to discuss the big issues on Facebook/Twitter regardless of whether or not the content posted is actually true. A few minutes reading the comments generated by their followers shows that there is a clear and almost even split between people that know what they are all about and those who ‘get pulled in’ and react with outrage!
One of the biggest honours for Southend News Network came when the Acting Bureau Chief of the Associated Press London Office got in touch by email to ask for more details about a ‘story’ where a mother was arrested for accidentally calling her baby ‘Heroin’ instead of ‘Hermione’ (*4) – they have the emails to prove that this actually happened and may even use them one day!
In February 2016, the unthinkable happened! Two senior media officers at Southend Borough Council (the main target of most Southend News Network ‘stories’) invited the Chief Reporter to a meeting at Civic Centre, and they conceded that the success and following of Southend News Network on social media meant that they could no longer ‘afford’ to not engage with their own residents through this ‘news service.’ At the time of writing, SNN’s weekly reach for Facebook posts alone is between 150,000 and 250,000 users.
It is probably unprecedented for a local council to take this unusual step to get in touch with the people that they represent and are responsible for, but they have taken it all in incredibly good humour. They have now started engaging on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #troofbehindthespoof.
It will be fascinating to see if other government bodies in the UK decide to engage with spoof/satire news services in the same way. During the meeting, they even admitted that their call centre has to deal with a significant amount of enquiries from irate local residents when a more controversial ‘story’ goes live, such as the Halloween EXCLUSIVE when SNN revealed that all Southend Trick or Treaters would need to apply for a licence and undergo training and evaluation before hitting the streets (*5).