Regional newspapers across the country have teamed up with MPs, council leaders and members of the public to highlight the importance of press freedom for Local Newspaper Week.
Papers have been publishing features, editorials, competitions, and video messages on the theme, as well as taking to social media, going into schools and publishing readers’ letters to highlight the work they are doing.
High profile messages of support have come from the likes of Boris Johnson, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Judge, Lorraine Kelly, and Lord Hunt, chair of the PCC.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has also lent his backing to the week, writing a letter the to Newspaper Society explaining new legislation to be introduced to stop council papers competing with the local press.
He wrote: “I want to offer my support and congratulations for your Local Newspaper Week campaign. I agree that strong local newspapers are the very bulwark on which our daily life depends, and when they flourish, local democracy succeeds,” he said.
“So in the week you celebrate the importance of local news I am firmly backing that tradition by introducing new legislation, as part of the Local Audit and Accountability Bill, that will shut down the Pravda printing press and hold councils firmly to standards set in the Publicity Code.”
In Sheffield, The Star organised a debate on press freedom at a local school, and the paper’s editor Jeremy Clifford published a video message explaining why press freedom is important to the paper’s work scrutinising authority.
The Ham and High launched a sponsored Young Readers’ Edition to mark the Week, aiming to offer the next generation of local writers, roving reporters and community activists a voice in the paper.
The Huddersfield Examiner published a piece by a columnist highlighting the paper’s work to scrutinise local authority: “In magistrates’ courts and town halls up and down the country the struggle goes on each day. The urge to censor, to deny access, to obscure what is really being done with our money is never far away.
“Sometimes official attempts at ‘news management’ are subtle, like the misleading press release that disguises the true nature of a council decision. On other occasions it’s blatant, like the hired bouncer paid to block people entering a public meeting.”
The Birmingham Mail is carrying a reader letter each day explaining why press freedom is important. “A free press makes a vital contribution to a fair and honest society and keeps everyone informed about what is going on in the world, the country, and the local area,” its first letter said.
Midland News Association – which publishes top-selling daily the Express & Star and its sister title the Shropshire Star – has aimed to highlight the trust it has built within its communities in a series of editorial pieces and testimonials.
Today both titles posted ‘behind-the-scenes’ pictures to their respective Twitter feeds showing reporters, subs, and editors at work, as well as pictures of the paper going to press.