Littlehampton has been living through the biggest story it may ever see.
The Sarah Payne murder trial brought the national press into the Littlehampton Gazette’s patch.
But the paper hasn’t been competing with the big guns – it knows the kind of news its readers want to see.
Throughout the case – from when Sarah first disappeared through to Wednesday’s verdict – editor Roger Green has been striving to keep a balanced news coverage.
Even so, there was a very real danger that the weekly’s own deadlines could have worked against it if the jury had returned its verdict a day later.
As it was, the jury came back with a verdict at around 2pm on Wednesday and despite the noon deadline Roger and his small team pulled out the stops to put the finishing touches to their coverage with details of the verdict on the front page.
Six pages inside followed the last details of the case together with background on how a local team of detectives managed to crack the case and nail Roy Whiting.
With just a small staff of two reporters the paper decided to use a news agency to help cover the trial.
Roger said: “The case has been the biggest story that Littlehampton will probably ever know and we’ve tried to do it justice.
“There is a fine line between informing and overdoing it and I think we’ve struck a balance – but we’ve still got to write about the nativity plays and council meetings.”
“The case has been a heavy blow to the town and it has had some awful publicity. It has been said that Littlehampton is a dumping ground for paedophiles and that is simply not true.
“Everyone in the town is depressed. I have immense sympathy for the family and the town is another victim. Whiting isn’t even from Littlehampton he had only been in the town for three-and-a-half years.
“We now have to look at how we can rebuild the town’s image and lift people’s spirits and give them a more positive outlook.”
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