Editor asks media to adopt regional approach to reporting on disasters

By Mary-Anne McNulty

The media at large should follow the example of regional newspapers
when reporting incidents of crisis and disaster, a leading editor has
said.

Speaking at the seminar, Keith Sutton, editor of the Cumberland News
and News and Star, said success lay in identifying “local news and
local issues affecting local people”.

He said: “In times of
emergency and disaster newspapers can act as a force for good, and have
a vital effect on the lives of everyday people.”

The News and Star enjoyed a dramatic increase in sales during the Carlisle floods in January.

Its
sister paper, the weekly Cumberland News, published a commemorative
“city of heroes” edition that sold a record 43,724 copies.

Sutton
said his papers’ commitment to reflecting and reporting the views of
the ordinary man and woman in the street elicited an overwhelming
response.

“People are at the heart of disasters, and their stories must be told,” he said.

He highlighted the emergence of the “citizen reporter” as a valuable tool in the effort to produce the best possible coverage.

“We left no stone unturned,” he said.

“We
published photos taken by readers, first-person accounts by children,
and tried to involve our readership every step of the way.

“During
the floods, and in the time of the foot and mouth crisis, we were very
aggressive in our attacks on people in authority. “We hit out at
bungling ministers and forced the government to provide the money and
resources essential to the needs of the people.

“We gained the
respect of our readers, and as a result are selling as many copies as
we were in 2000. There aren’t many other papers that can say the same.”

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