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Councils hoping for demise of ‘pain in the arse’ local press, ex-editor claims

Peter Barron 1Local councils are looking forward to the “demise” of regional newspapers on the grounds that they are a “pain in the arse,” an ex-editor has claimed.

Peter Barron, left, who edited the Northern Echo for 17 years until stepping down in April, said certain local authorities would “love to see the back” of his former newspaper.

Peter made the comments while speaking to the Northern Correspondent, a website which covers news in the North-East of England.

In a wide-ranging piece on the state of the regional press, the Correspondent suggested state funding of local reporting may be used as a means of reducing the “democratic deficit,” although journalists it interviewed opposed this.

The Correspondent piece, written by editor Ian Wylie, focused on the Echo’s tradition of campaigning and investigative journalism.

It cited the paper’s successful 1999 campaign to cut waiting times for heart operations after its photographer, Ian Weir, died while waiting for a triple bypass.

Wrote Ian:  “Some of that local investigative and campaigning journalism continues. How would we know, for example, that almost 400 youngsters in the region are at risk of being groomed for sex, unless an Echo investigation had recently revealed it?

“Would the public have ever seen confidential documents alleging that Cleveland Police buried an accusation of historic child abuse made against the then chair of Cleveland Police Authority, if Echo reporters had not spent a year investigating it?

Peter told the Correspondent: “Plenty of councils are looking forward to the demise of local newspapers because they hold them to account.

“They see them as a pain in the arse. There are certainly councils that would love to see the back of the Northern Echo.”

Jeanette Oldham, the Birmingham Mail’s award-winning investigations editor, who was also interviewed for the piece, said she was not in favour of government funding for local news coverage.

But she added: “Police forces, councils, the NHS and others are investing huge sums to create an image of themselves that isn’t the reality. There seem to be more press officers at the same time as there are fewer journalists like me to challenge and hold them to account.”


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  • November 16, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Mr Barron is correct. It has already happened in Hartlepool.

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  • November 16, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Hey Bubbles, I’ll do the Hartlepool stuff.

    You are right that Barron is right. I had the pleasure of working with Peter and he’s a top bloke and great editor.

    Having been a Pain in the arse editor who was sacked after political interference from both local councillors and MPs there is no question that councils hate good local editors. Sadly, I don’t think there are any left.

    As for the Hartlepool Mail, it’s failed to carry any decent political stuff for years. The local council has featured in Private Eye’s Rotten Borough’s column on several occasions and not a peep from the town rag.

    You reap what you sow though. The paper has been among the worst performing in the UK for sales over the last couple of years with the rate of decline increasing.

    I couldn’t name you a single “challenging” political story it’s carried in years.

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  • November 16, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    The press probably used to be a pain in the arse to councils, but not so much anymore.

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  • November 16, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Press benches at my local town and district councils representing 130,000 plus people empty week after week, year after year. If it is not in an e mail it doesn’t get reported. Not even a mild pain in the bum to the council. How’s your “local” paper doing?

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