My journalism heroes of 2017: All of you

It is indeed the most wonderful time of the year.

And for the last three years, it’s been even more wonderful because I haven’t had to work up to the Christmas wire.

Tomorrow night, I will be able to close my laptop for a week and have a break.

It wasn’t always thus. Four years ago, I was updating The Bath Chronicle’s website well into the evening of Christmas Eve as the River Avon threatened to burst its banks and flood the city centre.

I’ve spent Boxing Days filling thin December 27 editions and cut short celebrations to be in at the crack of the dawn of a new year – hangover and all.

So, as other media folk reveal their heroes of 2017, I have no hesitation in naming mine.

They’re everyone working in the regional media.

It’s been a joy looking through my fellow blogger Steve Dyson’s list of regional media heroes – particularly as he celebrated the work of my onetime colleague Tim Dixon, as well as the investigative journalism of the inspiring Emma Youle and the spirit of axed editor Sarah Cox.

There’s been pride, too, at the recognition of the incredible work of the Manchester Evening News editorial team at the British Journalism Awards.

And it was uplifting to see the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Bureau Local Twitter thread showcasing some of the great stories that made a difference over the past year – as well as to see its launch of a new project to scrutinise council budgets.

But to me, anyone soldiering on in newsrooms from Truro to Thurso is a bit of a hero.

I don’t entirely buy into the spirit of the comment below – journalism is still a fantastic and fascinating job, which remains a real privilege.

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 08.19.55

But these are difficult times, especially if you work for Newsquest, whose insistence that cutbacks in its newsrooms are all unconnected and uncoordinated beggars belief. Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 08.30.51

I feel particularly sad about the loss of jobs at my former paper, the Swindon Advertiser.

But depleting resources and the departure of much-loved colleagues are only part of the picture.

Ever-increasing and seemingly non-negotiable web targets combine with a sceptical and ungrateful public to add to the challenge facing all regional journalists.

That suspicion of the traditional, so-called mainstream media is part of an arc of conspiracy theorist fantasising that starts with Donald Trump and goes all the way round to left-leaning sites such as The Canary – now thankfully censured for its ridiculous nonsense about Laura Kuenssberg.

I know of no one in the regional media who is interested in anything other than the truth, and no one who doesn’t have his or her community’s best interests at heart.

Day in, day out, they do their best to square circles, to serve up what can feel like the turkey twizzlers of quick fix web content while still lovingly preparing the home-cooked roast turkey of storytelling that has a lasting impact. And putting together print products that still offer the best way of getting people to lift their eyes from second screens and filter bubbles to read the unexpected, the important and the challenging.

So as I tuck into my own food this Christmas, I’ll raise a glass to everyone still carrying the torch for the journalism that really makes a difference.

To all regional journalists everywhere, I salute you, and wish you the very best Christmas possible.

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