For as long as I can remember I have been a fully blown news addict, having got my regular fix from newspapers, radio, television, Ceefax and nowadays also via my laptop and smartphone.
Being curious about the world we live in is as natural to me as passing the buck is to a cabinet minister, which is why my fascination with what my grandparents called current affairs has endured for more than three decades and is likely to last until I end up on the giant spike in the sky.
From the age of 12 I regularly had to do my very best Linford Christie impersonation to avoid the school’s late register largely because I could not drag myself away from my old man’s Daily Mail.
But it was flicking through the various local newspapers which came through our front door that gave me the biggest buzz, largely because I recognised the name of places and people mentioned in articles – I had a real connection with what I was reading.
The obsession with local newspapers continued once I got a job delivering them but my round took twice as long as it should have done because I read every article while I was supposed to be working.
At 14 I knew that I wanted to be a reporter, writing for the very newspapers I was stuffing through people’s letterboxes and 27 years later I am still very happily working in the local press.
I for one am celebrating Local Newspaper Week this week, probably with a couple of extra trips to my local Greggs.
What I have learned in my 22 years as a local journalist is that what we do really matters to our readers – we are their voice, their champions, not to mention an impartial chronicler of events in their town or county.
Perhaps our greatest strength comes from the fact we are the most accountable of all media because we are the most accessible as many communities are still home to newspaper offices. We both need and want to listen to our readers because, unlike national titles, we have a finite potential audience to whom we have to appeal. Without you we are nothing.
But we must be doing something right because local newspapers are among the oldest and most recognisable brands within the communities they serve and I have personally worked on half a dozen that are now at least 130 years old.
That kind of staying power doesn’t happen by accident, it happens because that newspaper has been trusted for generations, which is quite some responsibility for those working in newsrooms today.
My time in the industry has coincided with huge changes – the end of hot metal, introduction of full colour presses and, perhaps most crucially, the dawn of the digital age. The internet has given us endless opportunities to grow our reach – a staggering 42 million people a week read local news either in print or online but it has also brought with it plenty of new competition, some of whom have contributed to the open sore that is fake news.
This newspaper is committed to maintaining the highest of editorial standards which have earned us the trust of readers – local newspapers are three times more trusted than the social media platforms which so dominate our lives.
So in Local Newspaper Week we thank you for your continued support...and for keeping me in pastry products.