Thursday, August 21, 2008
Local reporters work hard -- all over the world
It’s been a busy few weeks for news here on the paper. The main story which broke last week was the disappearance of a climber from the Scottish Borders who had gone missing while in the mountains of Pakistan.
Just 28 years old, Ben Cheek was an experienced mountaineer doing what he loved but that has not made it any easier for his grief-stricken family.
As far as a story goes, it is the sort of thing local papers like to give plenty of coverage to, as normally incidents such as this happen rarely on your own ‘patch’.
However, no matter how many times in the past you have called families to ask for details when there has been a tragic accident, as a reporter it never gets any easier.
In this case, it was even more difficult as I had worked with Ben’s mother some 20 years ago on an environmental improvement project here in the Scottish Borders.
All you can do as a local newspaper reporter is make sure you get the facts straight and bear in mind that these people are not just faceless subjects but also readers of your paper and members of the community you serve.
A local newspaper has to support its community as well as report the news that comes from it. Sometimes this might not be the most pleasant or welcome of news, in which case you need to handle it sensitively, but accurately without sensationalising it.
Local newspapers may sometimes be looked down on by our national paper colleagues but ask anyone who works or has worked on a local paper and they’ll tell you it’s where you learn your craft.
A local reporter has to be a master of all trades - reporting crime and court, sport, profiles, business stories and advertising features.
And while many local papers are only weeklies, their reporting staff usually have long lists of stories to wade through before deadline.
At least on a daily, you might just have one story to tackle each day, or over a few days if it is a major news item.
This week so far, I’ve worked on the missing climber story, tried to find out if one of the protestors arrested this week for unfurling pro-Tibet banners in Beijing ahead of the Olympics is from our area, interviewed and written up a 1,000-word feature on music therapy services in the Borders and a host of smaller items too numerous to mention.
I am sure Linda and the other editorial staff at The South Reporter know exactly what I am talking about.
It’s often a thankless task, with praise a rarity, but with plenty of folk only too quick to pick up a phone or put pen to paper at some alleged misquote or inaccuracy.
So the next time you are reading a copy of your local paper, spare a thought for the men and women who work hard to bring it to you.
Mark Entwistle is the chief reporter for The Southern Reporter, Selkirk, The Borders, Scotland. The South Reporter also sends a column to that newspaper.
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