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28 November 2019

Editors Challenge PM On Support For Local Press

Editors have challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson on his plans to support the local press industry during visits to newspaper headquarters on the campaign trail after the News Media Association issued a challenge to party leaders.  

Northern Echo editor Hannah Chapman and Eastern Daily Press business and politics editor Richard Porritt put the NMA's five questions for party leaders to Mr Johnson during visits to their headquarters. 

The Northern Echo quizzed Mr Johnson on a series of issues including Brexit and the NHS before asking Mr Johnson what a Conservative government would do to help the industry as it looks to build sustainable models for the future. 

In response, Mr Johnson became the "most animated he was at any time during his visit, thumping the desk in the editor’s office." He said “you will have our support,” adding that local media was vital in reporting councils, and devolved authorities in order to prevent corruption.

Mr Johnson added: “You need local newspapers if you are to have justice because if you don’t have local newspapers doing court reports then justice is not done as it is not seen to be done, so you’ve got to keep going.”

Hannah said: “As a former journalist, he clearly understands the industry, and speaking to our advertising staff on the way out, chatted about the challenges of the shifting digital marketplace.

“Broad-brush backing while currying favour during a General Election campaign is one thing though. Following it up by taking these specific steps in quite another.”

In a write up of his interview with the Prime Minister, Richard Porritt said: "The News Media Association has issued a direct challenge to the main parties to pledge to protect the vital work the regional media does.

"It was my great pleasure to put some of those points to Mr Johnson. I hope he was listening and his warm words will prompt action if he is returned to number 10 next month."

Asked if he would continue to support self regulation for the press, Mr Johnson said: "I will and you will see in our manifesto that I do not think it is right to make newspaper legally liable in cases where they might be totally innocent."

Richard added: "I strongly believe regional newspapers have not yet had their golden age. An age with mass readership and the ability to offer so much more than we could in print alone. Podcasts, video and the opportunity to truly engage with the reader.

"That is why prime ministers still make a beeline for newspaper offices when they want to be heard."