The weekly editor whose paper was scooped by the nationals over the Rotherham child abuse scandal has defended its coverage of the story.
But he denied having felt a sense of “shame” over not having broken the story saying that the paper had published over 40 previous stories on the grooming of young girls in the town.
He also said that the Times’ scoop had “opened doors” to his paper in its subsequent attempts to hold the authorities to account.
Speaking at the Journalism Skills Conference, Andrew said: “As well as being what some might consider a setback – being scooped by a national – it opened a lot of doors for us as a paper.
“We were able to ramp up the pressure, to put pressure on the authorities. We called for the PCC to resign, and the chief executive.
However Andrew admitted that the lack of journalists from ethnic minorities among his 16 editorial staff may have made it harder for his paper to get the story.
“Maybe people would have trusted us more, maybe that’s something we should look at and newsrooms should look at in future,” he said in response to questions.
Asked what skills had helped him to break the story, Andrew Norfolk said: “They were skills I learned during the 11 years I spent in regional journalism, starting as a trainee at the Scarborough Evening News.”
But he also spoke of the changes that have occurred in the industry since then which have made investigative journalism more difficult on regional papers.
After leaving Scarborough, Andrew joined the Yorkshire Post where he was part of a four-person team taken off the diary for six months to pursue the ‘Donnygate’ local government corruption scandal in Doncaster.
Andrew commented: “The Yorkshire Post’s staffing levels are a skeletal shadow of those days.”
Earlier during a discussion on newsroom ethics post-Leveson, Sussex Newspapers editor-in-chief Gary Shipton said that accuracy and “treating readers with respect” had always been a core value of local papers.
But Rob Brown, head of journalism at Falmouth University, described the claim as “laughable.”
“Anyone who knows anything about local rags know that for years they have continued to make huge profits while running down their products,” he told the conference.
“Prodcuing churnalism is not treating the readers with respect.”