Thursday, 19 May 2011

Peter Preston: 'What I learned covering dog shows'

Observer media columnist and former Guardian editor Peter Preston has contributed an article to Local Newspaper Week in which he looks back to his days covering funerals, dog shows and Rotary Club speeches.

“Journalism isn’t about sitting in some lofty office thinking great thoughts. It is about knowing the people you're writing for, understanding their concerns, their hopes and fears. And you can only do that if you’re out there amongst them, being part of the community you aim to serve.

“I started in journalism, long ago, doing school holiday shifts on my local paper, writing my first features about life at the university just up the road. When I went to university myself I did every job going on the twice-weekly student paper there - and then learned my trade on Liverpool’s big evening and morning papers. I did funerals, Rotary Club speeches, dog shows, council rows and rugby matches.

"And at the end of that stint, when I moved on to cover local politics for the Guardian, I think I’d learned something precious. That politics doesn’t exist in some rarefied world at Westminster. That democracy lives, breathes and reacts in the minds and the lives of the people you catch a bus to work with every morning. That the local dimension isn’t some remote step ladder on the route to the top. It’s where everything begins. It’s the foundation stone of society.

“And that’s as true today as it ever was. Your local paper, in villages, towns and cities up and down the land, is there to reflect you, yourself - your own running commentary on life. In the mazy world of the world-wide web, where nothing seems more than a click away, it is still the place where the people around you put down their roots.

“There’s been a local press in Britain for as long as there have been newspapers. There will be newspapers - in one form or another - for as long as people care about what happens around them. News is a necessity, your link to your neighbours. Prize it, relish it, support it... because, not just in Local Newspaper Week but every week of the year, it helps your world go round.”

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