WHEN people ask me why I became a journalist, I give the same answer now as when I first started out 25 years ago. To make a difference.
Journalists are in a unique and privileged position. We have the opportunity to change people’s lives and contribute to the prosperity of our communities.
Our most important function is to give people a voice. Whether it be campaigning against an injustice or giving publicity to a fund-raising appeal, we can help people reach an audience of hundreds of thousands.
We can, and do, make a real difference.
It is appropriate then, that this is the theme of this year’s Local Newspaper Week, a celebration of the contribution made by the local press across the country. Britain was the birthplace of local newspapers and our own sister paper, the Northampton Mercury dates back to the 1700s, making it one of the oldest newspapers in existence.
Times have changed, of course, and the way we deliver the news is no longer just through the printed form. Our website has more than 300,000 unique users each month, we’re followed by more than 22,500 people on Twitter and have 25,o00 likes on Facebook. We reach more people now than we’ve ever reached.
So, how do we make a difference?
In short, we celebrate success and we challenge failure.
I always describe the Chron as a critical friend.
We want Northampton to be a success. We want it to be a safe and prosperous place to live. But, equally, we also know that everything is not perfect. It is our role to highlight when local authorities fall short, but it is also our role to analyse what is being done about improving the situation.
Newspapers are often criticised as focussing on the negative and it is important we also give credit where it is due.
In the paper and on our website, we dedicate thousands of words every week to the activities of groups and organisations across Northampton and surrounding towns and villages.
We are a strong supporter of charitable causes in the town.
In the past decade or so, the Chron has supported the £1.5 million appeal for a new chemotherapy unit at Northampton General Hospital and, more recently, a similar amount of money for the new haematology unit.
The Strictly Northampton dancing event, which is now in its fifth year, has raised more than £110,000 for Macmillan Cancer Research and Cynthia Spencer Hospice.
We hold a number of high profile events throughout the year, again with the aim of celebrating success, from the Education Awards and Pride in Northamptonshire to the Business Excellence Awards.
There are many people lining up to spout forth about the death of the newspaper industry.
Yes, it is a challenging time but we have much to be proud of. There is an excellent team of talented individuals at the Chron, working hard to bring you the best news, sport, features and advertising platforms in Northampton. I am proud of the team and proud of what we do, day in, day out.
But I’ll leave the last words to John Helm, the fund-raising manager at Cynthia Spencer Hospice, on his views of the local newspapers, and the Chron in particular.
He said: “The Chronicle & Echo supports all our fundraising events and recently have become a major fundraising partner for us. Throughout the years the Chron has been a superb partner to Cynthia Spencer Hospice and without that our events wouldn’t be as successful.”