David Dinsmore: Local Journalism Adds Enormous Value to Lives

David Dinsmore, the chairman of the News Media Association, has lent his support to Local Newspaper Week (14-20 May). 

I have always been a firm believer in the power of journalism as a force for good in our society. 

At its best, journalism is a messy and chaotic business which challenges and disrupts authority in order to expose the truth.     

It’s not an easy job and, sometimes it can feel a bit like we’re in the firing line, with people bellowing down the phone because they don’t like what we’ve written or said.

But, following on from that initial disruption, good things can flow which change society for the better.

We don’t have to look far to find strong examples of this in local journalism.

Donor laws in Scotland have changed following a sustained campaign by the Evening Times in Glasgow.

The response to the Manchester Evening News’ #WeStandTogether campaign for those affected by the Manchester bombings was incredible, with £1.5 million raised in just one day.

And struggling families have been given a helping hand by readers of the Express & Star in Wolverhampton.  This is all thanks to campaigning local journalism.

I began my career as reporter on local newspapers and during that time I learned why journalism matters so much.

It’s fundamentally about people, their concerns and aspirations, and nowhere is that more important than at a local level.

Making a Difference showcases the very best local newspaper campaigning from the past year, with readers invited to vote for their favourite campaign in an online poll.  

Looking at the list, I was struck by the enormous value that local journalism adds to people’s lives. It’s hard to define and measure but it clearly exists. 

This value, created by people who believe in the power of journalism, is what sets our industry apart.

Apart from the social networks who profit from our content, yet invest next to nothing in the business of journalism.

They’d rather not deal with the risks and disruption which really good journalism always creates.

Apart from the vociferous campaigners and politicians who would rather that journalists weren’t able to hold them to account on behalf of the public.

For now, the industry has seen off the threat of Section 40-style costs sanctions and the sprawling inquiry but we must remain vigilant and alert to these dangers.

It’s thanks, in no small measure, to their efforts that we are currently ranked 40th in the world for press freedom, according to the World Press Freedom Index.

I find that appalling; the United Kingdom should be at the top of any such list, yet we currently languish behind countries such as South Africa, Lithuania and Trinidad & Tobago. 

Despite this, we have so much to be proud of. Our local newspapers produce high quality local journalism which makes a real difference, day in day out.

Forty-two million people, 83 per cent of the population, count themselves as local newspaper readers, in print or digital. 

We must use Local Newspaper Week to shout unashamedly about the immense value of local journalism and we’d like to invite you, our readers, to do the same.

Your opinion counts above all others.

So, I’d like to wish you the very best during this year’s Local Newspaper Week and, if you value your local newspaper and the journalism we produce for you do please get in touch and tell us why.