During Journalism Matters Week, Jamie Bowman speaks with his colleagues about the real differences their job can make. From keeping local democracy and the powers that be in check, to powerful campaigns that can change lives and everything inbetween.

There’s never been a more important time to give the public a voice.

IT may surprise you to learn that in an era of so-called 'fake news', local newspapers, websites and associated apps are read by 40 million people a week and enjoy a high level of trust from their readers.

Democracy depends on voters being informed and local media has a vital role to play in informing citizens about their local democratic institutions and keeping politicians and quango chiefs to account. Research has shown there is a link between poor local news coverage and participation in local elections.

Local media acts as a watchdog for its readers, listeners and viewers. People trust their local reporters and see them as someone to go to when there has been an injustice.

It's local journalists who are breaking important stories, many with a national significance. They also provide vital and entertaining local information that encourages active citizenship, democratic accountability and accessible public scrutiny.

Despite the acknowledged importance of the role of local news outlets, the industry is faced with huge challenges, ranging from numerous threats to freedom of speech to worldwide threats of physical violence.

According to Reporters Without Borders, 10 journalists worldwide have been killed so far this year, with 172 journalists languishing in prison.

The recent murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Northern Ireland brought home the continuing risk those in our trade face on a daily basis, while many journalists in our office will confirm they continue to receive online abuse simply for doing their job.

Because of factors like these, the Leader is backing a national campaign which aims to highlight the power of news media journalism.

Journalism Matters, which launched this week, is being run by the News Media Association - an organisation which represents the voice of national, regional and local news brands.

The campaign, which replaces Local Newspaper Week, is a platform for news media titles across the industry to tell readers about the importance of trusted journalism to our democratic society.

The Leader:

Susan Perry, group editor for Newsquest North Wales said: "Journalism does matter. Good local journalism has a vital role to play within the communities we serve and inform.

"Everyday we report on news and events from across our regions and over the years we have helped our readers make a difference by giving them a voice.

"With our trusted news brands both in print and online, we endeavour to reflect and represent the areas we cover."

The Leader has both backed and instigated a number of successful high profile campaigns over the years, ranging from our Save Our Steelworks drive to secure jobs at Shotton Steel Plant, to our hugely successful toy appeal which helped North Wales Superkids gather gifts for children and families who may otherwise receive none at Christmas

In March this year we highlighted the huge impact the loss of bus services and changes to routes in Wrexham would have on the community, with Leader reporter Rory Sheehan spending a morning in Hightown, where he met residents and bus users left stranded by the changes.

"Contacts in the community are vital in local journalism, and thanks to one of many years, this was a vital issue I was able to get to the heart of with an in-depth report," explains Rory.

"Hermitage councillor Graham Rogers has been vocal about bus services in the area for a long time and when Arriva announced they were axing the number 42 service in his ward earlier this year, I knew he would be on the phone.

"Sure enough he was, and so were residents from the area, outlining the plight they would be facing, particularly the elderly who cannot drive or walk great distances, losing a lifeline service.

"I arranged to meet a group of residents and Cllr Rogers at one of their homes, from where they were able to show me their nearest bus stop and get a first-hand experience of the problems they would be facing. These are details you don't get from a transport company's press release about service changes.

"Since the report was published I have produced a number of follow-up pieces. The service has been lost, but readers and residents from the area have thanked me for giving them a voice, and giving them the confidence to keep campaigning."

Also this year, the Leader voiced parents' and residents' concerns about the increasing problems surrounding school pick-up and drop-off times and the dangers they pose to children.

"The parking crisis across Flintshire was an important story for us to cover," says reporter Aaliyah Rugg, who presented a special report on the problem alongside fellow reporter Andrew Nuttall.

"Not only had it been raised at several council meeting, but residents and school staff were complaining. We've previously reported numerous issues of parking concerns, particularly in Deeside, and what was being done to combat the issue. Not only is it inconsiderate, but it's dangerous and only a matter of time before someone, especially a child, gets hurt or killed. Not to mention the lack of space for emergency vehicles.

"This was the first of our special reports and allowed for us to interact with our readers, who then contacted us with their concerns."

Local journalists are in many ways the eyes and ears of the public, helping to show that our much vaunted democracy and legal processes are in good working order through everything from court reporting to attending council meetings. And we have the ability to change things for the good - just ask reporter Steve Craddock.

"Earlier this week the Leader spoke with councillors about the possibility of hundreds of children being relocated to other schools," says Steve. "Flintshire Council's cabinet met to decide whether to end free school transport 'anomalies' in September - which would have seen those pupils who are not technically eligible for free school transport, but currently receive it, lose that provision and be moved to their nearest suitable school.

"Councillors told the Leader of their concerns about the impact this decision could have had - including on children's wellbeing and education, their parents and the schools concerned."

At the meeting, cabinet opted to follow their original plan - to leave the 'anomalies' as they are until next year.

Cllr Carol Ellis, a governor at Elfed High School, in Buckley, told the Leader she was very pleased with the decision, adding: "People generally think this is a good idea.

"I think they (the cabinet) would have gone ahead with it if it wasn't for the article, without a doubt. I think the story pressured them into leaving it."

If you have an issue or story, you can email us at news@leaderlive.co.uk