PATCH reporting has long been an essential part of any journalist’s tool.

As a trainee reporter, I was given an area of town to cover, sent out their by my snarling news editor a couple of times a week and told, in no uncertain terms, to come back with at least one front page splash and a few page leads, never mind loads of smaller nibs to fill up the holes in the paper.

“Hoover up the place,” he would say in his harsh Scottish accent. “Speak to everyone, scour every notice board and don’t be afraid to buy someone a drink!”

No pressure then, as we trawled our area of town talking to councillors, the vicar, a few publicans, pop into the police and fire station, and speak to an assortment of local worthies who had a tale or two to tell.

It was a great way of getting to know the area, of making contacts to find out what was the talk of the pubs and clubs.

Sadly, in recent times this very basic of reporting techniques has gone out of the window through necessity.

Of course, newspapers still nurture close contact with their communities; newspapers such as the Adver wouldn’t survive unless it had those contacts with key shakers and movers in Swindon.

But now it is time to make time to spend more time with our local community.

That’s why with our team of reporters they will be spending more time out of the office and in the community.

Each will have their own patch or district, each with a blank canvas to bring in the news from their area.

We ran a news item about this last week.

Maybe it’s not big news, but it is intended to send a message that the Adver remains very much at the heart of the community – and wants to do more; but it is a two-way engagement.

On the website, the news raised one predictable mealy-mouthed response from a reader who asked why we weren’t reporting a story about the revocation of a Government decision to exile a terrorism suspect from London on the basis of secret evidence. The reason? – it has nothing to do with Swindon.

I can hear the counter question: “so if that story has got nothing to do with Swindon, why did you give so much coverage on the website to the announcement of Michael Jackson’s death”.

We announced Michael Jackson’s death just before midnight the Thursday before last, at the same time as other news agencies.

This was breaking news, this was world news, and it is a measure of how significant the news was by the huge numbers of hits those stories received in the first 24 hours.

So our task at the Adver is to cover the local news first and foremost – we break the news, we report it, we give the news a dose of perspective, as well as allowing comment on it. But there are times when national news will also creep into the agenda.

Editorial control remains mine – and there is a distinct difference in my mind towards giving widespread coverage to a High Court ruling over terrorism, which will have limited interest, and the death of a pop star.

You may not agree with it, but the decision is mine and I will always back those decisions.

What I am very much backing is the Adver’s move to get further into the heart of our community.

We already have the Your Neighbourhood websites which were launched a year ago where you can play a part in shaping the news in-paper and also on-line.

With the move to patch reporting for our editorial team, I believe this is another positive move from the Adver, and one which we hope the local communities will embrace.