THIS week is Local Newspaper Week, an annual event aimed at highlighting why papers like your Adver is important to communities.
This year’s theme is Making A Difference – something I like to think we do every day.
Newspapers are the lifeblood of a community and have been for as long as those communities have been around. This year is the Adver’s 160th anniversary and its ethos has not changed from February 6, 1854, the day William Morris first published it.
We, like newspapers up and down the country, are here to reflect what goes on in our town, both good and bad and we report it without fear nor favour. If something happens in the town our job is to report it, explain what happened and examine why.
The Adver is a platform for comment and debate. Our letters pages positively bristle with opinion, argument and counter argument. Most of the letters we receive are articulate, intelligent and thought-provoking. Where else does this level of discourse exist? Don’t say the internet.
The paper is also a means for promotion for charities, voluntary groups and, of course, the hundreds of businesses who advertise with us each week. There are hundreds of groups in the town, as large as the Prospect Hospice and as small as jumble sale organisers, who rely on us to publicise their events and report back on how they went.
Okay, none of this will change a law, put someone behind bars or alter history, but all these little things we publish do make a difference to ordinary people’s lives, and that’s what makes us proud.
But we are just as proud of those occasions when we do go to press with stories that have real resonance with the community – the appeal for a radiotherapy unit in Swindon, the peerless reporting of the Sian O’Callaghan case, the exposure of the Swindon wi-fi debacle, the continuing trials and tribulations of Swindon Town to name but a few.
All of our journalists, whether they are the ones out reporting, those writing the headlines and designing the pages or those who fulfil the many other tasks that contribute to the production of the Adver, care deeply about what they do and the community they serve.
I’ve seen many of them deeply troubled by difficult stories that stay with them or greatly inspired by interviewees who have moved them. It isn’t a job for someone without emotion or empathy.
That’s why we take the time and trouble to seek out the positives in the town. I see part of our role to celebrate our town and our county and to reinforce the good feeling they have for the place they live in. This area has wonderful, funny, generous, talented and fascinating people and I hope any copy of the Adver you happen to pick up demonstrates that.
I’m told all the time that newspapers are on the way out, that the internet is where it’s at and that it is only a matter of time before newsprint goes the way of Bakelite and asbestos.
But I don’t see it that way at all. Yes, of course the internet is important and no-one has embraced its capability for news reporting more than we have. But newspapers are here to stay and their role is as vital now as when William Morris cranked out his first copy of the Adver 160 years ago.
Over the course of this week we’ll be highlighting more of what the Adver does for its community and how it interacts with it. I’d be interested in any reader’s opinion on how well we do it and what we could do better. As I’ve said before, it is your paper, we are just the custodians.
Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.com/@gazzaloz