Keith Harrison: Huge Positives and Opportunities In Local Journalism

Express & Star Keith Harrison has called for the local media industry to get on the front foot and be “positive” and “passionate” in order to capitalise on the huge positives and opportunities in local journalism.  

Speaking at the Behind Local News conference, Keith highlighted the rising audiences and unique connection local newspapers enjoy with readers as well as a “vintage year of investigations, probing reports and high quality journalism” as showcased at the Society of Editors Regional Press Awards.

Keith said: “Recently in a piece for Local Newspaper Week I described the local people as fun-loving, straight talking, hardworking and in many ways the same characteristic same characteristics applied to our industry. We like a laugh.

“We pride ourselves on being straight talking. We’ve got no choice but to be hardworking and most of all we genuinely are tough. It’s hardened by years of social change, technological advances and challenges that would have killed off lesser industries. We’re still here proving we are essential as we ever were.

“Anyone who doubts that should have been at the Society of Editors Awards last Friday when the industry marked a vintage year of investigations, probing reports and high quality journalism.

“The Manchester Evening News and its outstanding coverage of last year’s horrific bomb attack in the heart of this city was honoured at the awards. It was a worthy celebration of an industry absolutely still alive and kicking so I’m delighted to see the emergence of Behind Local News.

“Because in journalism as in life I always think it’s best to be on the front foot. Be positive, be passionate, do something,” Behind Local News reported.

Keith continued: “It has not been easy, we all know that but progress is being made. And as events like today show the industry is working together for the common good more closely than ever before and of course there are huge positives and opportunities to counterbalance the negative view from the gallery.

“We have burgeoning digital audiences — the readers have not gone away. They’re still there, consuming our content more quickly than ever and in many more ways than even ten short years ago. Our titles remain the most trusted news media around in this era of fake news and unprecedented media plurality.

“It is absolutely vital that we maintain our credibility and our connection with our readers.”

“I am convinced that digital developments can provide significant revenue streams for our organisations in the next five years and beyond. For that to happen however we need to maintain the quality of our journalism and preserve the service we provide to our readers to give them essential news and comment and information and whatever platform they choose.”

“We need, and I believe we’ve got, people who believe passionately about the future of local journalism

“People who are determined to bring about the changes necessary not just to survive but to thrive in a new era of local journalism. And as someone who spent the last six months looking through our digital strategy I can assure you that old dogs can be taught new tricks.”

“At the same time our foundations must be built on retaining the standards the principles and the core values that have guided our profession for hundreds of years.

“We do need to be innovative to learn from each other and to keep fighting the good fight as I tell the newsroom on a daily basis to make sure that those who would do us down, write us off as irrelevant, and restrict us through regulation do not succeed in inadvertently killing off one of the most powerful lines of communication the world has ever seen.”