The upcoming general election presents a “huge opportunity” for regional newspapers to have an impact on the ballot box, according to a digital chief.
David Higgerson, digital publishing director for Trinity Mirror, wrote on his personal blog that local newspapers would have a better reach in decades during the election because of the growth in their digital audiences.
He said news organisations should capitalise on that and ensure that the local press was taken seriously by politicians.
David wrote his blog following comments made by Annabelle Dickson, the political editor of the Eastern Daily Press and East Anglian Daily Times last month (March), who claimed that regional press coverage could be decisive in almost 200 marginal seats.
Writing in his blog, David said: “Since 2010, there is no denying that the regional press has grown to reach more people than it probably has done for 30 years.
“Print continues to decline, but the growth in digital audience is undeniable. The reach locally will be better, in many places, than for decades.
“This is the general election where the regional press needs to make the most of that. The right tweet, linking to the right political story, can reach many more people, more easily, than any tool we’ve had, as journalists, at our disposal, at any time in the history of journalism.
“Of course, there are plenty of people who will point out that those same tools exist for any blogger or political party too.
“But the hard yards, day in day out, of reporting local affairs and local news in a way which can be trusted, is something many people respect, even if they don’t buy the paper or visit the website daily.
“The challenge for journalists entering the general election is to make sure politicians respect that, and respect the regional press more as a result.”
He wrote that the regional press should focus on issues which matter to local people, for instance by publishing manifestos, as the Yorkshire Post and 24 Trinity Mirror daily and weekly titles have done.
David added: “It is in everyone’s interests for as many people as possible to vote. By using our enlarged readership as a powerful platform to hold politicians to account, we can provide readers with the information which could reconnect them with the electoral process.
“That’s my hope – and that’s why I think it’s entirely realistic to set having an impact on the ballot box as a goal for the regional press at the general election.”