Andy Martin, left, who edits the Bournemouth Echo, says he wants to give public officials on his patch “more sleepless nights” by sending more “troublemaking reporters” to council meetings.
In a column for the Echo, Andy said the number of PR offices in public sector bodies on his paper’s patch now far outweighed the number of journalists.
And as reported on HTFP yesterday, the Law Society Gazette has claimed magistrates’ courts are operating “effectively in secret” because of what it sees as a lack of regional press coverage.
But Andy said that his journalists would continue to aim to provide the “checks and balances” in their local communities even if “some in the traditional media” no longer saw it as their role.
He wrote: “Holding public officials to account is more challenging than ever. Newsrooms are smaller than at any time – the newspaper industry is changing, as are many others.
“At the same time public bodies like local authorities, health trusts, quangos and the police are putting more resources into trying to set their communications agendas, spinning via social media and their own websites, keeping information out of the public eye, filtering messages and trying to control access to decision makers.
“Many of the ‘Praetorian Guard’ press offices now style themselves as ‘news offices’ or ‘newsrooms’ clearly illustrating an ambition to fill what they perceive to be a vacuum left by traditional media. The number of communications officers in our local public bodies far outweighs the number of journalists working in the local media.”
He added: “But while some in that traditional media may have less ambition to be a major, if not the most important part of the checks and balances in their local communities…..we continue to put more, not fewer resources into areas like council, health and court reporting.
“We are not in danger of losing the ability to hold people to account, to speak up for the powerless or battle on behalf of those stumbling around dazed and confused in ever more complex, impenetrable and unhelpful bureaucracies.”
“Those in power will have noticed more troublemaking reporters at their meetings and on their case. (There were four Daily Echo journalists doing their duty in council chambers on Tuesday.) Hopefully we will be giving those in authority more sleepless nights.
“We are not simply interested in getting online clicks for car crashes and assaults. Yes, there is plenty of battery life left in our torch, to shine into the growing number of dark corners and the fog of obfuscation.”