A weekly newspaper which converted from broadsheet to tabloid as part of a major relaunch has won praise from a senior government minister.
Against the backdrop of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude drew a contrast between “trusted” local newspapers and their “negative” national counterparts.
Horsham MP Mr Maude was writing in the West Sussex County Times the week after it changed format as part of the group-wide relaunch of paid-for titles by owner Johnston Press.
The Tory politician praised the newspaper for “moving with the times” and welcomed the format switch as the “latest step in its evolution.”
Said Mr Maude: “As I write this, the Leveson Inquiry continues and the contrast between national and local press is highlighted more than ever – people trust local and regional press so much more than national papers.
“The County Times holds such a special place in our community because we trust it. We trust it to report on all local stories – both good and bad – unlike the national press which seems so often to focus on the bad and the negative.
“It isn’t that the County Times avoids difficult and controversial issues of local importance. However it gives equal prominence to stories of individuals, schools and businesses excelling, doing their bit for charity or going the extra mile – whatever it might be.
“The County Times has always moved with the times. The website is a fantastic local resource and the paper grabbed the opportunity to use it to feature video reports and interviews. Moving to compact form is just the latest step in its evolution – which, happily, will ensure it stays at the heart of our community.”
The paper also won plaudits from legendary Radio 2 presenter ‘Diddy’ David Hamilton who sent his congratulations to the paper and described the new look as “great”.
Another broadsheet-turned-compact, the Bucks Herald, was praised by ITN journalist Paul Davies who said: “Loving the new look and design. Sport looks great.”
Johnston Press said other titles in the first phase of the relaunch have received hundreds of similarly glowing tributes from readers.
So far the relaunch programme has seen five daily titles switching to weekly, eight broadsheets going compact, three North-East freesheets going paid-for and six East Midlands weeklies given a radical redesign.