Raise a glass to Ray – but let’s raise our game, too

I was going to have a right old go at a national treasure today.

A lovely old man in his 90s with a seemingly inexhaustible zest for life.

One who’s never done me any harm whatsoever.

But my conscience got the better of me.

Don’t get me wrong, I do admire Sir Ray Tindle, founder of the 220-title local newspaper empire that bears his name.

I am much taken by his optimism, his longevity in the face of illness, his dedication to cravat-wearing, and his cavalier attitude to web design.

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I love the way he started it all with his £300 wartime demob money.

And most of all, I am impressed by his relentless obsession with the idea that life is local, that newsrooms should cover the minutiae of identifiable communities’ lives.

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And yet, when I saw coverage of his handover of power to his son Owen, I couldn’t get a horrible geographical thought out of my head.

The pictures don’t help, either.

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The picture of the handover used on Hold the Front Page

I’m desperate to know what’s in those packages on the desk, for a start.

But have a read of this…

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Really? Did he say those words out loud? In Britain, as opposed to, say, a country that’s just above South Korea?

It’s all a bit weird.

But let’s give the new Supreme Leader, sorry chairman, a bit of credit.

For Young Mr Tindle did come out with a genuine gem.

“We will go forward into the new era of local media, keeping things beautifully small and beautifully local.”

Which is a lovely thing, as my fellow blogger Steve Dyson has said, in a piece which also celebrates my friend Richard Coulter’s Voice titles in and around Bristol, and the recently-launched Cambridge Independent.

My concern when it comes to the Tindles – and this is why I was going to pile into an elderly national treasure, is that their company’s dedication to realistic pay and training hasn’t always been obvious.

I’ve taken on enough reporters from Tindle titles over the last couple of decades to get a fair insight into the step change that moving to a bigger group involved on both those scores.

But, looking back at below-the-line comments on a host of Hold the Front Page stories about Tindle, it’s clear that Sir Ray engenders great loyalty among his staff, who say time and again, they’d rather work for him than anyone else.

So, like his, my glass is going to be half-full.

Because he is right about the need for truly local journalism.

The journalism that looks people in the eye, that rubs shoulders with its audience, and which has a recognisable human face.

Yesterday’s Rewired conference on cutting edge journalism featured a fascinating session that was very much back to the future on representative media: essentially getting out and doing face-to-face reporting.

Because here’s the thing.

If we’re going to build a future for journalism, it’s going to have to be local, and it’s going to have to be out there, breathing the same air as our audience.

I was very taken today with a piece on American journalism from columnist Ross Barkan.

He was writing about Trump and the erosion of trust in the US media, but his message is just as relevant on this side of the Atlantic.

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‘We can hate most what we don’t know.’

There’s a truth that goes far wider than the future of journalism there.

But for now let’s cling on to that thought.

The more we know the people we write for or broadcast to, and the more they know us, the more likely it is that journalism has a sustainable future.

 

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