THE phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Inquiry has brought to light the running of newspapers and magazines across the country.
But on a visit to The News head office in Hilsea, Lord David Hunt, who took over as the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) last year, praised local newspapers for the way they are run and the way they reflect their communities.
He admitted that many people may have lost their trust and confidence in the newspaper industry.
And he says he hopes that regional papers can be a guideline for the rest of the industry to follow, describing them as the ‘gold standard’ of the print world.
He met The News editor Mark Waldron to discuss the future of press regulation as part of a tour of the country’s local and regional newspapers.
Lord Hunt hopes that independent self-regulation of the press can be regenerated and renewed. He says: ‘I’m here because I wanted to see for myself how The News is operated and how the newspapers are operated as part of my learning process.
‘Local regional and national newspapers in the UK should have a new regulated structure which will help to secure public trust and confidence in newspapers and magazines after what happened with the phone hacking and what happened with the Dowler family.
‘Local newspapers are the lifeblood of the newspaper and magazine industry.
‘Obviously we are always interested in national and international news.
‘But in my experience as a Member of Parliament my local newspaper was always what I looked at when I was in Westminster to see what was happening in the real world.
‘Local newspapers represent the gold standard of the industry.’
Lord Hunt’s visit comes two weeks after we relaunched The News with an even larger focus on our local communities.
And after flicking through a copy of the paper, he acknowledged that the focus on communities is vital.
‘Local newspapers have a real opportunity to get even closer to their local communities,’ he adds.
‘I welcome the fact that they are encouraging more of a local readership to contribute.
‘I would like to see local newspapers become even more the voices of their community.
‘When you go into a newsagent you have a choice.
‘You can get up to date with national news or what’s happening in your local area and what’s happening locally.
‘Most people want to know what’s happening locally.’
Lord Justice Leveson is expected to publish his report into press standards and the phone hacking scandal in the next few weeks.
And Lord Hunt now hopes that the industry can move forward from disasters of the past and that people who have lost confidence in newspapers and magazines will regain their trust.
‘I’m very optimistic about the future,’ he says.
‘Across the world we are recognised for our free press.’
He added: ‘I am hoping that Lord Justice Leveson will concentrate on the future and what is necessary in the future rather than spending too much time in the recrimination of what has happened in the past.
‘We know it was wrong. Terrible things happened which must never be allowed to happen again.
‘The key will be to map out a future where such incidents will never be allowed to take place. We have all learnt lessons.’