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A decade of change in the regional press

HoldtheFrontPage marks the tenth anniversary of its launch this week – but how much has the industry really changed in that period?

Well, a look back at our newslist from our first day of operation, 7 February 2000, gives us a few clues.

Among the stories we featured were a regional daily’s stand against council secrecy, a new initiative in dealing with readers’ complaints, and a regional publisher’s new online shopping portal.

While circulation may not quite be what it was, some of the issues facing regional newsapapers and their journalists have remained constant.

One of our top stories that day was about Southern Daily Echo editor Ian Murray’s new idea for handling complaints, called ‘Your Advocate.’

Ian told HTFP he picked up the idea from an American newspaper while holidaying in Florida.

Ten years on, Ian is one of only a handful of regional daily editors who are still in the same jobs they were in when HTFP was launched (Gerry Keighley of the South Wales Argus, Derek Tucker of the Press and Journal, and Peter Barron of the Northern Echo are three of the others.)

But his paper is no longer the six-edition, 60,000-circulation tabloid we described in our first day story.

The stand-out headline from our debut newslist was undoubtedly ‘Readers strike it lucky with reporter’s wife’.

The lady in question was Brighton Evening Argus reporter Nigel Galloway’s wife Ruth, who wrote an unusual column giving readers tips on how to win competitions run by supermarkets and HIgh Street shops.

Meanwhile The Citizen, Gloucester, ran a column of a rather different nature, listing all the items that had been considered by the local council under private business.

The Freedom of Information Act has subsequently eased some of these difficulties, but council secrecy remains a pervasive problem for many local and regional journalists.

Finally, the newslist contained both a foretaste of the future and a link with the industry’s more distant past.

The future was represented by the first mention of the internet on HTFP – a story about a new online shopping mall called that had been launched by Newsquest.

But the past was also present in the shape of a tribute to the former Derby Evening Telegraph courts and council reporter Lewis Meakin who had recently died at the age of 83.

Former colleague Lucy Orgill noted that Lewis had spent so many hours in Derby Courthouse that his initials LHM were carved into the old press bench – as I remember from having sat there myself as a DET reporter in the 1980s.