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Northern newspapers are nationals for their communities when ‘London media bubble’ slow to pick up on regional news, says MEN journalist

By Jessica Brown

A Manchester Evening News journalist has said regional newspapers in northern England act as national titles for their communities when London-based papers are slow to report on news outside of the capital.

MEN politics and investigations editor Jen Williams made her comments in the New Statesman this week, prompted partly by claims the London-based media had neglected the major moorland fire outside Manchester last week and ongoing disruptions on the Northern Rail network.

She said: “London-based media were slow when the giant Saddleworth Moor blaze kicked in last week, with many here [in Manchester] pointing out that were an inferno to be raging on the edge of the capital, it would have been the top of every website and bulletin.”

By contrast, Williams praised coverage of Northern areas by national news outlets based outside of London, such as BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Breakfast and BBC 6 Music, all of which are situated in Media City in Salford, Manchester.

National news website The Huffington Post has relocated its entire editorial team to a pop-up newsroom in Birmingham this week as editor-in-chief Polly Curtis said she wanted to break out of the “London media bubble”.

The news website has also recently employed correspondents based in Manchester and Birmingham. Channel 4 is also expanding its reach with new offices outside of London.

“Where organisations have taken an active step to branch out into the regions, news priorities fundamentally change,” said Williams.

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“The consequent shift in news priorities is important for one key reason: politicians in Westminster feel far more pressure to take action on problems if they are getting blanket coverage.”

Williams also argued that technology brought the benefit of making some regionals almost national.

“In an era when anyone anywhere can read our journalism, there is no real reason why we can’t effectively be the national papers for the communities we know so well,” she said.

“And contrary to the narrative – often espoused by national journalists whose own organisations are in fact struggling more – local news is not dead.”

She added: “London’s bubble is overheating.

“Young graduates are increasingly choosing to stay in other cities rather than head to an extortionately expensive capital. Brexit has proved the need for national media to get out into the 85 per cent or so of the country that doesn’t live in London.

She added: “When national journalists ask me: ‘Why haven’t you moved to London yet?’ there’s really only one response: ‘Why haven’t they moved to Manchester?’”

Picture: Reuters/Phil Noble

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