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Campbell highlights importance of local journalism in podcast

RestisPoliticsFormer spin doctor Alastair Campbell has highlighted the importance of local journalism while also bemoaning the current state of the industry in a recent podcast.

Alastair, who started his career as a journalist on the Tavistock Times in 1980, now co-hosts a weekly podcast entitled The Rest is Politics with former Tory leadership contender Rory Stewart.

In a recent edition of the podcast, the duo called for greater “respect” for local journalism and understanding of its role.

They were responding to a question from Andrew Papworth, a former Archant journalist now working on the Daily Telegraph, who asked Alastair for his views on the current state of local journalism and the lessons he had learned in his time as a young reporter.

Alastair responded: “I do think one of the things that’s gone wrong with journalism generally is that there is not enough training on local newspapers

“There is something extraordinary about being part of a local community and knowing that if you get something wrong, like you spell someone’s name wrong or get their age wrong, there is a very fair chance they won’t just write in or phone but will come into the office and say you spelt my name wrong, and it does give you this sort of discipline to try to get your facts accurate.

“I do think there is something terrible about the death of so many local newspapers. I met a journalist recently who was on a salary which was not that much more than some of the salaries that were being paid on local papers back in the days when I was on them.

“It’s really really hard now to make a good living doing local journalism. There has to be more respect for local journalists and more understanding of the role local journalism plays.”

Alastair also opened up about the role his work as a local reporter played in the development of his alcoholism later in his career.

He said: “The other thing I learned is that there is a story in every single person you meet. That might have been an excuse for my then developing alcoholism because I used to think that if I went to the pub, I would definitely find a story in somebody, and nine times out of 10 I did, so that gave me a sort of professional justification.”

Mr Stewart, who was Conservative MP for Penrith in Cumbria before being kicked out of the party by Boris Johnson, praised his former local paper the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald and its former editor Colin Maughan, who stepped down 2019.

“Nothing is better for local democracy and accountability than a good local newspaper. In our case in Cumbria the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald was just wonderful,” he said.

“They had an editor called Colin Maughan for more than 20 years who absolutely refused to dumb down or popularise and for a very long time by running a pretty traditional paper.

“There were many many pages about the auction prices, great reporting from local parishes but also some pretty tough challenges to me as an MP,” he added.