Ignored by the party leaders? Maybe local journalism needs to come off the fence

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Local journalism has long been proud of its impartiality when it comes to covering elections. But in failing to see that it’s possible to offer endorsements while still providing balanced coverage, aren’t we effectively making ourselves irrelevant in the most important local conversation of all?

An investigation into the access afforded to local journalists by political parties was published The Bureau of Investigative Journalism on Friday. It concluded that both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn were short-changing local journalists during the general election.

This won’t come as a surprise to many local journalists – indeed, the Bureau began looking into the issue, and spoke to dozens of local journalists, on the back of hearing about Cornwall Live’s experience with prime minister Theresa May early in the campaign. May’s people refused permission for the website to film the PM, and kept reporters well away from much of the visit.

The Bureau concluded that May has done interviews with regional media, but often has little of substance to say. Plymouth Herald chief reporter Sam Blackledge summed up the experience I’m sure many have experienced brilliantly here. Corbyn, on the other hand, has done fewer interviews, but has given better answers according to some.

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I’ve seen examples which contradict both conclusions – May certainly delivered an answer to ChronicleLive’s Mike Kelly when he opened a press conference with a zinger of a question, while Corbyn made it quite clear he had no intention of talking to BBC North West Tonight when he visited Salford, and the subsequent package on the evening news (which I can’t find online) should shame the Labour Party.

But there’s no denying it’s becoming harder with each election that passes to get the national parties to take the local press seriously. The election of 2005, when I interviewed Tony Blair the day before the poll as was impressed by his apparent depth of knowledge about local issues, seems much longer ago than the 12 years which have passed. Cynics at the time said ‘he was just well briefed.’ These days, even that would be nice.

So what do we do about it, and why is this the case? I suspect local interviews are seen as a potential banana skin to be avoided at all costs. Much better (for the campaign) to be seen in Huddersfield, in front of a hand-picked audience of factory workers, preaching about issues which match the surroundings than risk actually engaging in those local issues.

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Manchester: The spread which shows how a nation cares

The Manchester Evening News carried a supplement on Saturday, reflecting on the week’s events which shook the nation, but made a city stronger.

The front page of that supplement has been widely shared online:

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Inside the supplement is a spread of front pages from around the UK this week, anchored by the MEN’s fronts this week which have both set the tone and reflected the mood in the city over the past seven days:

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Manchester: Regional press front pages share horror, grief … and a determination to support those suffering

The terror attack on the Manchester will dominate the news for days to come. It was one of those events which stops you in your tracks, and poses so many questions.

For regional newsrooms across the UK, it was another occasion where the lines between ‘local’ and ‘national’ news were blurred by the fact events in Manchester were the only thing people were thinking about.

As today’s front pages show, this was a tragedy which stretched way beyond the city in which it was inflicted. Stories of escaping, of helping, of grieving and of helping dominate pages of the regional Press from across the UK.

The obvious place to start is in Manchester, with this front page from the Evening News:

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It would be morally wrong for Jeremy Corbyn to quit if he loses the election

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Whenever there is a general election, almost as soon as the result is announced it’s now assumed that the losing leader will quit.

In fact, you have to go back as far as 1987 – when Neil Kinnock failed to dislodge Margaret Thatcher from Number 10 – to find a leader of one of the two major parties who carried on through to the next election.

The jungle drums are already beating over what Jeremy Corbyn should quit when/if Labour fails to wrestle the keys to Number 10 from Theresa May’s hands early next month.

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Regional journalism’s digital tipping point: Are we there yet?

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It’s been a back and forth journey, but has regional journalism reached its digital tipping point?

When people speak to the digital tipping point, they tend to be talking about revenue, of the moment when digital revenue growth replaces fully the loss of print cash. Definitions of what that looks like, and what is contained within each pot, vary widely.

I’m not looking at that in this post – but instead journalism’s digital tipping point. As in that moment when digital journalism is so second-nature to people within regional newsrooms that it isn’t a special thing anymore, but just the done thing.

How you evaluate that obviously is open to interpretation. You will find editors who point to the long journey their newsrooms have been on, and will say their newsrooms are indeed digital. You will also find editors who point to the things they still need to become truly digital.

And then you will find many people playing in the shades of audience first/reader first/digital first/print last and applying labels to what they do.

For me, the platform is irrelevant. Journalism’s biggest challenge isn’t around being digitally-savvy, it’s around being audience-savvy, and making sure readers sit at the heart of everything we do. After all, without them, we’re nothing.

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The most important questions a journalist can ask

Journalism works best when it is read by people. It’s not about clicks, it’s about being relevant and meaningful to people. Get that right, and journalism’s ability to hold the powerful to account and generally make a difference is all the greater.

After several decades of newspaper sales decline, digital journalism offers us the chance to reconnect with readers who, for whatever reason, don’t consider buying a newspaper to be a daily habit anymore.

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Can a mulberry tree planted by Wordsworth show us the future of local journalism in 3 steps?

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Wray Castle, in the Lake District, sits atop a hill giving it commanding views of Lake Windermere. Its locations put its at the very heart of the National Trust’s history, and the man who conceived the idea of the National Trust, Hardwicke Rawnsley, was related to the one-time owners of the building.

Since 1929, the building and its grounds have been owned by the National Trust. Beneath a mulberry tree in the grounds of the castle is the above plaque, a little battered by age, which tells visitors that William Wordsworth planted the tree there. That’s quite a claim to fame for a tree, isn’t it?

On Good Friday this year, the chances of wandering lonely as a cloud around Wray Castle were slim to none. Along with hundreds of National Trust properties around the country, it was playing host to an Easter Egg hunt funded by Cadbury. The mulberry tree was one of the stops on the trail:

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