LOCAL NEWSPAPER WEEK: WHY THE ADVER REALLY MATTERS
SWINDON’S criminal fraternity, including the violent, the perverted and the deceptive, rely on the comfort of the shadows to carry out their schemes.
But by shining a light on those shadows and exposing wrongdoers the Adver can claim to be making a difference to the local community.
In keeping with the theme of this year’s Local Newspaper Week, we are highlighting the ways in which we make a difference to people’s lives in the community we serve.
Since 1854 the paper has consistently reported those who pass through the revolving doors of the town’s courthouses, championed the voices of victims of crime and highlighted issues the local authorities must get a grip of.
Reporters work closely with the local constabulary, Wiltshire Police, to raise awareness of crime trends such as house burglaries or knife crime, publish appeals for witnesses and suspects to come forward and follow them through the justice system to report the punishments meted out.
The latest example of this was our Crook of the Day feature, in which we pictured people sought by police for a host of more minor offences ranging from theft to robbery. It proved successful in that many of those pictured came forward to either admit their crime or rule themselves out of the police inquiry.
In recent years the paper’s use of CCTV has directly led to offenders being caught.
In February 2011, Stephen Reynolds, 53, was jailed for a sexual attack on a five-year-old girl in the 99p Store in Havelock Street after the Adver ran his picture on the front page before arrest.
And in March, following an armed robbery at Ladbrokes in Regent Street, the paper used its online arm to plaster the face of a suspect across the web and social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, prompting the young man to hand himself in just hours later.
But the paper has also been at the forefront of the big stories that shook the town, and sometimes the nation.
The murder of Sian O’Callaghan in March 2011 sparked a huge outpouring of grief for the popular 22-year-old and anger at her killer Chris Halliwell, 50, of Nythe.
The Adver brought readers almost every angle on the case first, including a ten-page special upon his sentencing to life imprisonment in October 2012.
And the paper also broke the news Dr Davinder Jeet Bains had been arrested over sexual abuse claims, sparking a dedicated NHS helpline and national newspaper and TV headlines.
Wiltshire Police superintendent Gavin Williams, formerly Swindon’s police commander, said local papers played a key role in aiding the police but also scrutinising them.
He said: “There’s a number of key things papers do, be it in terms of news appeals, community reassurance or just keeping people informed of what is going on in their town.
“Every year the paper helps publicise our messages about Christmas, New Year, Halloween and also our ongoing operations such as Op Atlantic and Op Harness, particularly dealing with people’s fears around drugs. That’s a really valid role.
“It also acts on behalf of the public to scrutinise what we do.”