In Manchester at the local elections, 115,000 turned out to vote. In the 10 days around the election, more people than that within Manchester visited the Manchester Evening News website.
In Birmingham, it was a similar story on the Birmingham Mail website – more people from within Birmingham visited the Mail website than appear to have turned out to vote.
I mention this for two reasons. It debunks the myth the detractors of the regional press put about that brands that have served their communities for over 100 years are irrelevant in the digital age.
But perhaps more importantly, it shows the power returning to journalists to hold public authorities to account for the greater good.
Many of my colleagues were pleasantly surprised by the level of interest in the local elections on the websites I work with. There could be a number of reasons for this. It could be that the determination by the Westminster parties to run the elections as a referendum on current national party politics performance meant fewer outlets focused on local matters. The predicted rise of UKIP could have been a factor.
Or it could be more mundane – most councils now release the results of their elections the day after voting closes, rather than overnight. Websites in towns and cities with next day counts saw, in my experience, more people viewing the results than those that didn’t.
At the Revival of Local Journalism conference, held by the BBC at MediaCity last week, the importance of public authorities being held to account was raised time and again.