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'We're no dinosaurs,' daily editor tells minister

A daily editor has told government bosses the regional press are no “dinosaurs” and that rumours of its extinction have been greatly exaggerated.

Keith Harrison, editor of Wolverhampton’s Express & Star, was speaking at Westminster seminar on Thursday organised by the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the National Union of Journalists.

Other attendees included Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries,  John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture media and sport select committee, Leo Whitlock, editor of the Kentish Gazette and the Newspaper Society’s Santha Rasaiah.

During his speech Keith told attendees the regional press has the potential to “drive forward a new era of publishing”.

He said: “There are now thousands of hyperlocal websites springing up, keeping their readers – our readers – informed of coffee mornings, roadworks and jumble sales.

“In addition, there’s the never-ending flood of local authority propaganda, the police twitter feeds, the ambulance Facebook page.

“To stand out, local newspapers – delivered in whatever form – must rely on the attributes that have stood them in good stead for centuries; accuracy, balance and quality writing.

“Without those three pillars, we will crumble into a sea of irrelevance.

“Far from being dinosaurs, the ‘dead tree press’ is providing the fossil fuel – the content, the connections, the campaigns – to drive forward a new era of publishing.

“Rumours of its impending extinction have been greatly exaggerated.”

After the meeting, Leo took to Twitter to praise Keith’s speech and also warned the NUJ of “dangerous” and “unrelenting” pessimism.

He wrote: “It’s right that (the NUJ) fights for its members, their jobs and local journalism. But their unrelenting pessimism is dangerous.

Leo also questioned how many “celebrations of newspaper launches, great journalism, and successes” the NUJ published”, accusing it of being “deliberately blind to the industry’s many successes”.

In response, a respondent on the NUJ’s official Twitter account wrote: “Not enough, we’d love more good news stories for media workers. Better pay, more jobs, less bullying…..

“For our trade union it is about standing up for journalists & media workers. That is no. 1 priority for the NUJ.”

However, Leo also thanked the NUJ on the social media site for helping organise the seminar with DCMS.