Inspiring tales of local journalism

There are now many local papers where the owners seem to have a death wish. Resources have been cut back to the point where no one cares whether they live or die,

One I see regularly no longer contains anything of journalistic merit. Its most interesting item last week was an ad for a chimney sweep.

But let’s not write off the UK’s struggling regional and local press just yet, and if you don’t believe me click on this link and look at the winners of the 2011 Regional Press Awards.

I have been involved in these awards for several years. They always cheer me up, but the standard of entries this year was truly astonishing, given the dire economic situation.

They may be losing readers and haemorrhaging advertising revenue, but much of the work entered this year was of marvellous quality. While much of the industry sinks into the mire here is striking evidence of a great resurgence of local journalism.

Some of the stories are worthy of a TV drama series.

Nicky Harley, a smart young court reporter on the Hull Daily Mail, takes the law into her own hands when she tracks down the photographic evidence needed to convict a man who raped an elderly woman.

Steve Hall, crusading editor of the Derby Telegraph, fights for the community he serves. He leads a campaign to protect his city’s train building industry, lobbying in Parliament and Europe and speaking at demonstrations. He helps win a reprieve, saving hundreds of jobs.

Emily Koch, a pretty young reporter on the Bristol Evening Post, finds a worker in a care home with a dirty big secret: he used to be a torturer for Robert Mugabe.

Why would anyone not want to buy paper with stories this good, and why would an advertiser not want pay to be seen alongside such material?

While much of the local press fills up its pages with press releases it doesn’t have time to rewrite, there are still many newspapers that are better written, better designed and better edited than at any time in their history.

“The report of my death was an exaggeration,” Mark Twain wrote in 1897.  Dare we say the same of our local newspaper industry?

-GARETH WEEKES, Deep South Media Ltd.