Richard Oliff - Local news as important as it ever was

Richard Oliff
Richard Oliff

I vividly remember the banner of The Corby Leader as my dad read it in his armchair – pipe-smoke billowing over the top as he digested the latest news from just around the proverbial corner.

It never occurred to me that Kettering, Wellingborough or Market Harborough might have their own equivalent. The Leader gave a micro-managed view of one’s world in all its parochial splendour. It would become a talking point if one was to recognise this or that person from one of the many black and white photographs that would give someone their 15 minutes of fame long before Warhol coined the phrase.

My dad was once featured in The Corby Leader as an example of how a ‘crippled’ man (he had lost a leg in the 40s) could decorate his home given the benefit of the latest innovations in prosthetics.

The expansion and re-development of just about everything began to bring one community closer to others, not least of which was the impact our ever-evolving transport infrastructure would have in bringing Corby and Kettering closer via long stretches of straight uninterrupted road. Gone were the bendy main routes that seemed to take forever to travel, especially by bus. Almost overnight our view of ‘local’ expanded as it became easier to identify that we had more in common with nearby townsfolk than otherwise appreciated.

Providing a daily newspaper to serve these ever growing communities was, and still is, an immediate, intensive and expensive process heavily subsidised by advertising or sponsorship without whose revenue we would not have any news in the written form at all.

The Corby Leader had had its day and it was hello to a new daily paper, the one you’re reading now. Today there are very few local media businesses truly owned and operated as independent entities. Most have been absorbed into conglomerates whose idea of ‘local’ delivery is based purely on the clone principal. Radio, TV and newspaper production has become dictated by the ever increasing competitive struggle for the same advertising revenue, a stream that is drying up as advertisers put promotion on the ‘back-burner’ for more prosperous times.

Johnston Press, who own The ET, along with some 300 other titles, has had to bite the bullet and recently announced a revamp of many titles and plans to improve its online service.

The times dictate the future direction of any business if it’s to survive, but why would they even bother if local media wasn’t as important today as it ever was?