Thursday 13 May 2010

Harry Evans: 'Local newspapers must be prepared to risk offending advertisers as well as authority'

Sir Harold Evans, former editor of the Sunday Times and Times, has written an article for Local Newspaper Week saying that the local press should be robust and be prepared to risk upsetting advertisers and authority.
He says: “There’s nothing like a local newspaper for bringing a reporter face to face with the community at all levels - and experiencing the reaction when we get it wrong (or right!)
“I had an early taste as a 16-year-old beginner on the Ashton-under-Lyne Reporter in Lancashire when I erred in compiling the winners of a dog show, and again as editor of the regional morning daily, The Northern Echo, when a Home Page article I published had angry fruit and veg retailers besieging the office.
“These were altogether good responses because the offended readers regarded the local paper I worked for in each instance as their newspaper. They expected their newspaper to get their names right, of course, but crucially to respect and reflect the community’s best values, to fight against delinquencies, big and small, blatant and concealed, and to provide a platform – a megaphone – for individuals and groups..
“These are among the reasons the local newspaper is so often first with the news. People with information turn to a trusted friend. On my travels today in the US and Britain. I never go into any city or town without checking what’s in the “local rag” and on most occasions – not all these days! – gain a unique insight.
“I must stress that the relationship between a local newspaper and its community has to be robust. If the relationship is be based on mutual respect, the local newspaper may have to puncture local pride, risk offending advertisers as well as authority; mere boosterism is no substitute for honest, thorough reporting .
“After a lifetime in journalism, however I have no doubt that when it is true to its community, the local newspaper is an incomparable resource, one to nurture and cherish.”

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