THIS week is Local Newspaper Week, and community newspapers like the Derbyshire Times are using the opportunity to fight for their very survival.
I am talking about the Leveson report, and the Government’s effective move towards state regulation of the press – lock, stock and barrel.
It all stems, of course, from a bunch of unscrupulous hacks (I cannot call them journalists) who deemed it fit and proper to ‘hack’ into people’s phones, in the hunt for salacious dirt. The people responsible are as far removed from my team as chalk and cheese, however, the Government intends ruling national tabloids and community newspapers in the same way.
It’s the equivalent of putting every child in detention because one schoolyard bully has beaten up half a dozen kids for their lunch money. Apologies for the crude analogy, believe me, I am not seeking to trivialise their criminal acts but to illustrate how unworkable the Government’s Royal Charter is.
I have edited numerous local newspapers: Gainsborough Standard, Worksop Guardian, Grantham Journal, Derbyshire Times. Not once has one of my titles overstepped the mark and been brought to book by the Press Complaints Commission. That’s not because the PCC is toothless. Far from it. It’s because the professional people who earn an honest living on small local newspapers operate with an unswerving commitment to integrity. We have to look our readers and advertisers in the eye week in, week out, and have done so since 1854.
If Parliament’s version of the charter is passed, titles like mine will struggle to hold local authority to account. We’ll be stifled by red tape, and bureaucracy, leaving YOU vulnerable.
I have personally written to all MPs on the Derbyshire Times’ patch. Some have responded positively, some not at all. If you want your local newspaper to survive, I urge you too to tell your MP, before it’s too late.
by James Mitchinson, Editor