A regional publisher’s digital chief has criticised high-profile politicians for treating local journalists as an “awkward afterthought”.
David Higgerson, digital publishing director for Trinity Mirror Regionals, has hit out after Cornwall Live reporters were barred from filming or photographing Theresa May during a visit to their patch on Tuesday.
The regional news site also reported that its journalists were barred by the Prime Minister’s press team from being allowed to ask Mrs May about why the restriction was put in place.
But David says the local press should be “first” on the planning list for any top politicians visiting swing seats.
On his personal blog, he wrote: “Most of the newsrooms I work with now reach more local people every day than at any point since the 1970s. The loyal, local readers – as in those returning most days – dwarf the print readerships over which those disconnected with our industry still obsess.
“The growth isn’t driven by clickbait, or by publishing hit-and-run copy designed to drag people in and then, ultimately, disappoint. It’s been driven – in the case of the 80-odd websites I work with – by becoming reader-centric at every turn, building a relationship with readers which seeks to inform rather than tell, share rather than shout.
“As a result, for any political party seeking to turn a swing seat to its advantage, speaking to the local press shouldn’t be an awkward afterthought, or something to negotiate two questions around, it should be the first thing on the planning list.
“I would say this, of course, as I work in the regional press. But in this case I don’t say this out of pride for my sector of the media, but because it makes sense when you look at what it is politicians are trying to achieve on their royal visits.”
In the run up to the 2015 General Election, the Conservatives were criticised by newspapers including the Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Nottingham Post and Yorkshire Post over restrictions imposed upon their journalists during visits by then-Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr Cameron later apologised to the Examiner and gave a ten-minute sit-down interview to local government reporter Joanne Douglas.
David contrasted this with the eve of last election he covered as a reporter in 2005, when Tony Blair’s press officers had actively sought out regional journalists covering the bell-weather sea of Rossendale and Darwen.
He added: “The current approach of ignoring, or barely tolerating, the local media ignores the relevance the local media has in the lives of far more people than we did in 2005, and the live, instant relationship we now have with our readers. Snubbing our journalists, or restricting their activities, is to treat our readers with contempt.”