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Regionals tops for political coverage says Clegg

The regional press is better placed to explain national politics than other parts of the “Westminster media bunker,” says deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

Speaking at the Newspaper Conference annual lunch on Tuesday, Mr Clegg said high levels of reader trust in local newspapers were “the envy of many other parts of the media.”

Describing himself as a “passionate believer” in the local media, the deputy premier hailed the “underlying strength” of the industry in spite of circulation decline.

Addressing the gathering of regional political editors and their guests, he also pledged to “honour” the government’s commitment to rein in council-run newspapers.

Mr Clegg told the lunch: “The underlying strength of your newspapers seems to be growing rather than diminishing. You’ve got more and more readers, and crucially you have rates of trust in what you produce which is the envy of many other parts of the media.

“How you commercialise that in a world in which commercial advertising revenues are restricted and public advertising revenues have certainly been very severely restricted, I understand, is tricky and I think you’re going through a transition period.

“But the basic building blocks of a vibrant and sustainable regional newspaper industry seem to be me to ever firmer than they were in the past.”

He added: “I also think that some of the big, big challenges that we as a Government are facing are challenges which, dare I say it, you are in a position to understand, and explain, and articulate, often much, much more fully and with greater insight than is often the case from the Westminster media bunker.”

Speaking about the coalition government’s plans to devolve power from central Government to the regions, Mr Clegg said he hoped that regional papers would make sure “we hear the voice of the regions.”

He added: “I think you are much better placed to connect the national with the regional, the Westminster to the town hall, than many other media are, and in a way that goes with the grain of what people want from their newspaper these days.”

Chairman of the Conference Sam Lister, parliamentary correspondent for Press Association Lobby Extra, said that measures announced by the Coalition to reform libel laws, and announcing proposals to curb council newspapers, had been welcomed by the regional press industry.

“We hope these can be implemented as quickly as possible and are not subject to any further delays,” Sam said.

She added: “The Newspaper Conference and the regional lobby play a vital role in scrutinising politicians and holding them to account, and reporting back to people in all parts of the UK what’s happening here in Westminster.”

“We hope to continue our critical but constructive relationship over the coming years.”

NS president Georgina Harvey, managing director of Trinity Mirror Regionals, gave the vote of thanks at the end of the lunch. She said: “We are a media that have more journalists on the ground, day in day out, than any other media.

“What I would like to point out is that this highly professional and well-trained force of local journalism is largely funded, as we know regional media is very different to national media, by advertising revenue.

She said she hoped in times “of unprecedented change and challenge”that local and central government wouldn’t be, “tempted to continue to withdraw much-needed advertising pounds out of regional newspapers.

“We are an industry that is navigating very well through extremely choppy economic waters but I know that we are very resilient and very tough and we are absolutely committed to the communities that we serve.”


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  • January 27, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Does he actually believe this, or has he been living on another planet for the past decade? Or perhaps he’s simply repeating what he’s been told by the Newspaper Society.

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  • January 27, 2011 at 10:20 am

    If he knew the dangerously low staff levels at local papers he wouldn’t be so confident.We are heading down clanger alley.

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