There’s a recurring sketch by the comedy duo Armstrong and Miller that I love. It’s about a character called ‘Striding Man’ who charges down a corridor while a host of supporting characters shout out bits of information as he passes.
Some them are facts (‘tomatoes are fruit, not veg’ springs to mind) some are opinion, (‘you can’t have too many cushions)’ and some are just surreal (‘Scandinavians don’t know what to do in tapas bars’).
The snippets of information come thick and fast until Striding Man walks out of shot, presumably to digest what he’s just been told.
Sometimes I feel quite a lot like Striding Man.
A big part of my job here is to assess what’s coming in – by phone, email, from our reporters and from sources like Twitter – and sort out the wheat from the chaff.
There’s a lot of chaff, mostly from PR companies who don’t really understand what regional papers are about.
But as I metaphorically – and sometimes literally – stride around during the day, I’m listening out for the snippets that will resonate with readers and help shape our coverage.
It’s not an overestimate to say that in one way or another, 90 per cent of those comes from readers in some way, whether it’s via a phone call from one of our reporters, an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, a tweet or a ‘ring-in’ to the newsdesk.
In fact it’s the ‘ring-in’ that can often turn everything around – a call about something that’s going on right now that turns out to be a front page story.
We have a fine team of reporters here with their ears to the ground who do a great job of bringing in our content. But we never forget that readers are our eyes and ears – and if something interests you or matters to you then it’s most likely to be of interest to others too.
So even if you don’t actually see me striding past, be sure to pick up the phone and let me or a colleague know what’s on your mind.
The newsdesk number is (023) 9262 2118.