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May 25, 2018

Prince Charles writes letter in support of ‘vital service’ provided by local newspapers

By Sam Forsdick

Prince Charles has shown his support for local newspapers, saying they “provide a vital service which is as important now as it has ever been”.

He made the comments in a letter to marketing service Local Media Works, an arm of the News Media Association, following its Local Newspaper Week campaign this month.

The Prince of Wales singled out the Aberdeen Press and Journal, the John O’Groats Journal, and the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard as newspapers he has “enjoyed keeping in touch with”.

“These papers, and hundreds like them around the country, highlight so many of the important aspects of local community life in a way that no other media could hope to do,” he said.

“There are countless examples of local newspapers acting as powerful and effective champions for their communities, and very often it is the local media that are first to a story and who stay with it long after the national media have moved on.

“Local journalism is about giving communities a voice and empowering people with the knowledge to make informed decisions.

“Sometimes, a good local newspaper communicates the aspirations or concerns of the local community to a wider audience, putting local issues on the national agenda.”

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John Wilson, editor of the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, was happy to receive the recognition from the future King.

Wilson told Press Gazette: “We were delighted and proud that the Prince of Wales singled us out as an example of a local newspaper doing an important job.

“Crucially, he made the point that papers like ours cover local life in a way that no other media can hope to do.

“He is, of course, well placed to judge the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, because it is his local paper and website. His home at Highgrove, near Tetbury, is in our patch.

“I only wish more high-profile figures like the Prince would speak up for the local press, rather than try to run it down.”

Local Media Week marked its 20th anniversary this year. The annual campaign, run by Local Media Works, celebrates the work done by local newspapers and their journalists.

Regional papers have struggled against declining circulation and ad revenue, with Press Gazette research showing 40 local newspapers closed last year alone.

However, the Prince of Wales seemed optimistic about the future of local news.

He continued in his letter: “In a rapidly changing media landscape, the advent of digital media has transformed the way we consume our news.

“Despite this rapid change, I am very encouraged by the evidence that suggests that local journalism is adapting well and remains in robust health with audience numbers remaining strong across print and digital platforms.”

He added: “The importance of trusted media sources cannot be under-estimated in the era of so called ‘fake news’ and misinformation.”

Wilson was similarly confident and said: “Disregard the jibes of the doom-mongers – we remain a profitable industry with deep roots in our communities and high levels of trust among readers and advertisers.

“Local journalism is thriving and grasping the opportunities offered by the digital revolution, and I thank the Prince for highlighting that fact.”

Last week, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall attended a reception at Tate Britain celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Press Association news agency.

Picture: Frank Augstein/Pool via Reuters

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