Why we shouldn’t allow men in their 70s to dominate our pages

Phones don’t ring as often as they used to in newsrooms.

But when they do, there’s a certain sort of person that’s likely to be on the other end.

(Sweeping generalisation alert)

There’s a fairly good chance it’ll be a bloke in his early 70s.

He might be a councillor, he might be a residents’ association chairman, or he might be from some other civic-minded group.

(Further sweeping generalisation alert)

He’s also the sort of person who might well be leading opposition to a new housing development.

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A man in his 70s leads a housing protest

Newly-retired folk are always going to be at the heart of community activity.

They have time on their hands, a need to throw themselves into new challenges, and a reasonable amount of energy.

And so, as regional newspapers reflect such community activity, they will be involved in a lot of our stories.

They’re the kind of stories that are fairly easy to write.

“Residents in xxxx are preparing to do battle over plans for xxxx homes on their doorstep.”

That kind of thing. Accompanied by a picture of a grim-faced group wielding a placard or two.

Which is all very fine and dandy. These people are in many ways doing sterling work.

But they aren’t necessarily a barometer of true community feeling.

I seldom see the voice of the young couple struggling to find an affordable home heard in our coverage of housing battles.

At times, it seems as if all housing development is defined as A Very Bad Thing, that our default setting is to have a presumption against new homes.

At the same time, we ask ourselves why younger people aren’t buying our papers or viewing our websites.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be covering such planning battles – although I do wish we’d provide more background and analysis which explain the bigger picture at times.

But I do think we need to recalibrate that coverage to ensure it reflects the whole community – including those who don’t necessarily shout the loudest.

Talking of noise, I’ve got to go.

The phone’s ringing.

I’ve got a guy in his 70s to talk to.

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