Time to celebrate vital role of local papers

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Across the UK 40 million people read a local newspaper each week, making it the most widely read print medium in the country.

Even in the age of the World Wide Web local newspapers still touch the lives of more people than any other local media.

This year, Local Newspaper Week focuses on the importance of independent local journalism which is relevant to readers' lives and trusted by local communities to hold public bodies to account.

Each day this week the Leader has a range of special competitions and offers for readers - look out for the logo each day.

So as we launch into this Local Newspaper Week we hear from one of the most well respected journalists of our time along with the feelings of notable figures in varying walks of life on how regional press has evolved with the changing needs of readers.

Sir Harold Evans - Former editor of The Sunday Times and Times, and author of My Paper Chase

“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.

“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.”

Carol Vorderman
“I love local newspapers and they are of critical importance. My older sister Trixie used to work for the Rhyl Journal in the 70s which I thought was very glamorous. 

“The Yorkshire Evening Post changed my life in 1982. My mum and I moved to Leeds and a few weeks later mum spotted an article in the paper about a new programme called Countdown. Countdown was to be the first TV show to be broadcast on a new channel, Channel Four. 

“The article said that they needed a young woman who was really good with mental arithmetic, and they had been searching and couldn’t find anyone. So mum wrote a letter to the producer at Yorkshire Television and forged my signature. That was the start of nearly 5,000 programmes of happiness for me. 

“I moved to Bristol a few years ago, and I learn more about this fine city through the Bristol Evening Post than through any other form of media. I’ve just launched my online maths school, www.themathsfactor.com, created and based in Bristol. 

“Even though it is only a few weeks old, thousands of children have had video lessons from me and practise their maths every day. I want to get the message out through regional newspapers as they give us the chance to tell our story properly.

Now we have children all over the UK sending us stories of how the website has changed their whole attitude to maths. 

“I love to belong to a city and local newspapers play an important role in making that happen.”

Lietenant General Sir John Kiszely - National President, The Royal British legion

“The current conflict in Afghanistan dominates news headlines on a daily basis.

The independent voice of local newspapers plays a vital role in rallying support for the Armed Forces family in communities across the UK.

“The Royal British Legion provides direct support and campaigns for improved conditions for the Armed Forces. We know how much more effective our campaigning is with the support of local newspapers. Together our voice is stronger and the message is amplified. The Legion’s recently launched Friends of the Forces Awards have demonstrated just how much local newspapers support the Armed Forces, with a significant number of nominations received for them.

“I am proud to see the many ways local newspapers raise awareness of the work and needs of our Armed Forces: organising homecoming parades for their local regiments; mounting fundraising campaigns; remembering those who have given their lives in the service of their country; or sending journalists on embeds to accurately report on the work of the Armed Forces.”

Gary Lineker - Match of the Day presenter and former England striker

“This year, I’m backing Local Newspaper Week because of the important role local newspapers play in connecting football clubs across the country with the communities that support them. 

“Healthy debate is a crucial part of football and local newspapers provide a platform for everyone involved with a club – owners, managers, players and fans – to voice their opinions on key issues. 

“Local newspapers also play an important role in fostering interest, often among young people, in grass roots sports which provide the foundations for sporting achievement in this country.”

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