Clegg defends regional papers... but says nationals 'are on a downward trend'

  • Clegg says regional newspapers are 'phenomenal' in EDP interview
  • 'I think every national newspaper is on a downward trend', claims Deputy Prime Minister
  • Nationals 'create drama to attract attention to themselves'

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has defended the role of regional newspapers after controversially comparing the press to “desperate” animals “around a disappearing waterhole”.

Clegg made the remarks at the Lib Dem conference two weeks ago, triggering a strongly-worded response from Newspaper Society president and Archant chief executive Adrian Jeakings, who said Clegg’s comments were “highly damaging”.

In an interview with Archant-owned Eastern Daily Press public affairs correspondent Dan Grimmer, Clegg said the regional press did a “phenomenal job”.

But he appeared to stand by his comments about the nationals.

Clegg said:

The trust that people have in their local newspapers and the local radio stations, for instance, is considerably higher than the trust they have in national newspapers and dare I say it, national politicians, as well.

Why? Well, for very good reason, because you are writing day in, day out, about the things which really affect people – their local community. Jobs in their local community, ambulance services in the local community, support for local pubs, local post offices.

These are actually the things which, quite rightly, people often care about more than some of the big national and international debates we might have in Westminster.

Commenting on the national press, he added:

The point I was making was simply that speak to any newspaper proprietor and they will tell you there’s just a general dilemma that the newspaper industry faces which is that as more people get their news online, there’s a whole issue as to how do newspapers keep their readership.

I think every national newspaper is on a downward trend in terms of readership, so what I was alluding to was the danger that some national newspapers, as they become ever more anxious to holding onto a diminishing pool of readers, sometimes might be tempted to lash out a bit, to try to create a bit of noise and drama in order to attract some attention to themselves.

In his letter to Clegg last week, Jeakings wrote:

Unsurprisingly, the local press – along with nearly every other industry in the UK – has been hit  by the most prolonged and damaging economic downturn in living memory.

But despite steep declines in our main source of revenue – advertising – which is a barometer of UK economic performance, we are reaching bigger audiences than ever before across our multimedia platforms.

Regional press advertising revenue are forecast to be sable and back in modest growth by the second half of next year, although this is of course dependent on the wider economy improving.

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