Prime Minister David Cameron voiced support for the local press during a flying visit to one of the UK’s best-performing regional newspapers.
In an interview the editor of Norwich’s Eastern Daily Press, Peter Waters, Cameron claimed the regional press has a ‘sort of calm and reasonableness’which is lacking in some national newspapers.
Waters told the Prime Minister that after the phone-hacking scandal erupted earlier this year his journalists were being quizzed by readers on whether they were involved in the practice.
‘It’s almost: ‘well, you’re all at it, aren’t you?’ And this isn’t the case in the regional press,’said Waters. ‘We live in our communities, and anyone we write about we might have to face in the street the next day.
‘What concerns us is that the Government might use this as an opportunity to impose new restrictions on the media.”
Cameron said that he understood the difference between the ‘national papers that were indulging in this practice and regional papers”, adding: ‘I think your readers know very well that regional newspapers have a different agenda, a different way of doing business and a different approach.”
He continued: ‘There’s a sort of calm and reasonableness to regional papers that you don’t always get from national papers.
‘That’s not to say you don’t fight very strong campaigns, you do, but there’s not the same level of hysteria, if I may put it that way.”
Cameron went on to reiterate a statement he gave to Parliament’s liaison committee last week – that the phone-hacking scandal should not be used as a ‘sort of bone to relish for MPs to over-regulate the media and get their own back for the expenses scandal”.
‘We want a vibrant free media and we particularly want that in our regional papers,’he told Waters.
‘It’s up to Lord Justice Leveson, who will chair the inquiry, as to what he comes up with, but the sort of independent regulation that will be looked at. I don’t think that newspapers that act responsibly have got anything to fear from.”
Cameron was in Norwich along with the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, to visit Egnland’s first free school.
He visited Archant Norfolk’s head office in Norwich ‘under a cloak of security which meant that no-one could be told of the visit beforehand”, the company said.
Reporter Kim Briscoe covered the visit and was also in the interview alongside Waters.
‘The vast majority of the newsroom had no idea that one of the most powerful men in the country was about to walk past their desks, and those who did only found out ten minutes beforehand,’she said.
‘It was priceless seeing the jaws drop of even some of the most cynical hacks as he strode into the office followed by a large entourage.”
Circulation figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulation last month showed the Eastern Daily Press saw a 0.6 per cent year-on-year rise to 59,490 in the first six months of 2011, making it one of only three daily newspapers in the UK to boost circulation.