Local papers match nationals for 'insensitivity'

Local newspapers can be as insensitive as the nationals in covering intrusive stories, according to the editor of the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph.

Jon Grubb told students at the University of Lincoln: “Local journalists are in the habit of distancing themselves from the nationals when inquests and deathknocks are under the spotlight. But local newspapers can be as insensitive as the tabloids.”

His former paper, the Nottingham Evening Post, had a policy of covering inquests only if the public interest was clear.

“For instance, if a schoolboy was found hanged, then there were possible issues relating to the pressure of exams and bullying. However, if a man committed suicide because he was depressed over marriage difficulties, then there was no clear public interest and so we didn’t cover it.

“But that kind of policy, which we intend to introduce in Scunthorpe, is rare on local newspapers.”

The victims of the insensitive reporting by the nationals were usually the rich, the powerful and the well-educated. “But our victims are more likely to be ordinary people.”

Editor of the Telegraph for 16 months, Grubb acknowledged that the circulations of most local daily newspapers had been declining. But, in fact, readership was increasing.

“In Scunthorpe, more people than ever before are reading the paper.

Judged on readership and not sales, local newspapers can be seen to be in a healthy state – and growing.”

He argued that 24-hour TV news and the internet posed no significant threats to newspapers. “If anything they are making people want to read more. The sales of books are increasing.

And people are beginning to realise what makes newspapers great.”

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