Lockdown Diaries #5: regional media

Posted on April 21, 2020


During the lockdown, Alex has been thinking about the importance of local and regional media and how it is a lifeline for many in communities across the country.

Alex is an Account Manager at Clearbox and loves news desks (as you’re about to find out), the Real Housewives of New York/Atlanta/anywhere, Dolly Parton and Domino’s, Nando's, McDonald's and SUBWAY. 

Over the past few years, it seems like there has been a growing trend of discrediting newspapers and media outlets. The rise of ‘Fake News’ is very real and increasingly, people are feeling disillusioned with news resources. 

This was highlighted when the editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post, James Mitchinson, publicly addressed a reader over her concerns that a photo of a young boy on the floor of a Leeds hospital was fake. You can read more about that here.

What was so interesting about the exchange was the impassioned response from the editor: 

Margaret, it may well be that those who will benefit the most by breaking the bond of trust you have with the likes of The Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post have already won, but I urge you to consider which news source you can get in touch with. Who is willing to look you in the eye and tell you they did their best to get it right versus those who pop up on Facebook, spout something so compelling that others share it, and with that undermine the truth and discombobulate decent citizens.

I would be more than happy to meet you over a coffee or such to offer you an explanation as to how sophisticated and corrosive the proliferation of fake news is, and what you can do to guard against being conned by it. Only - of course - if that is not patronising (I absolutely do not mean it to be) and welcome. However, if you no longer trust your Yorkshire Post - and I will be frustrated and disappointed if these people had wrecked your confidence in this historic champion for the county - contact the hospital directly. Whatever you do, do not believe a stranger on social media who disappears into the night.

James Mitchinson not only answered the reader’s questions with a very detailed explanation of how the paper sourced and verified its news piece, and the lengths it went to to confirm all the details, but explained why local journalism is so important. 

So it got me thinking - why should the public support local journalism? Is it vital? Here are some of the reasons why we should and why it is. 

Local journalism has the power to criticise, interrogate or celebrate with true knowledge and authority of the area. Like the example in Leeds, the editor explains the lengths the paper went to to verify the story after it was contacted. The paper checked with the hospital and The Chief Medical Officer for Leeds Teaching Hospitals, all of which would have been challenging if they didn’t have a dedicated team of local journalists who could ask these questions.

Local journalism condenses the news. This may seem an odd positive but with so many news sources, and ways to access news, it can become overwhelming. Local journalism has the power to extract the key headlines from the national news and package them into a great bundle for local readers. 

Local news desks also give new and aspiring journalists a platform and a chance to grow household name, Jeremy Clarkson trained at the Rotherham Advertiser, and former BBC director-general, Greg Dyke, began his career at the Slough Evening Mail.

The local paper also connects people to the past. I love it when one of my aunts shares a picture of our Granda at a social event in 1955 or a snap of one of them at a school play in 1969.

Above all else, local news connects us to the people closest to us and it creates a sense of belonging and community. I’m sure we’ve all had our picture in the local paper, whether it be for a sporting achievement, a youth club or from school and they are great memories for people to have. 

Jeff Moriarty, chief publishing and product officer Johnston Press said:

“We continue to play an important role in our local communities. Even in the age of social media, people still want to feel connected, to know what is going on around them, for someone to hold power to account and be an advocate for the place they live. No matter the platform, that continues to be our role.” 

We live in ever changing times and the world can feel increasingly vast, therefore I believe local journalism is a great way of making people feel connected. We spoke to a local newspaper editor in the UK and they had this to say about the power of local newspapers, particularly durning these uncertain times: 

“I do believe newspapers are vital and fulfil a valuable service, particularly local publications which keep people up to date with all that's happening, coronavirus or otherwise, while they are stuck inside. People are limited as to where they can go and who they can see and the elderly are particularly vulnerable, so newspapers can be their lifeline.”