Power of local press to set national agenda

In Local Newspaper Week, it is apt that part of the news agenda is being set by one of the country’s smallest community titles.

Armthorpe Community Newsletter goes out to just 6,000 households in an
area of Doncaster, but the lead story in its most recent edition has
made waves far beyond that villages.

Armthorpe had been the
centre of a controversial outbreak of Creutzfeldt-Jakobs Disease, which
had claimed the lives of four local people five years ago.

There had been widespread concern at the time that the outbreak had links with the victims eating certain types of meat.

Community Newsletter reporting team made excellent use of the Freedom
of Information Act to examine documents from the public inquiry that
followed the outbreak. The result was an eight-page exposé of what it
called an “astonishing sham of an investigation”.

Among its
revelations were that the inquiry had failed to track down the butcher
who had been linked with the supply of meat. The Newsletter found him
in just five minutes.

It also revealed that one of the victims
had been a blood donor, and that those who had been given his blood had
not been informed of his disease until last September.

The Mail on Sunday joined the Newsletter’s call for a reopening of the inquiry.

story, detailed on page 14, is just one example of the regional press’s
ability to take up the cudgels on behalf of its readership. As another
editor puts it in our Local Newspaper Week spread on pages 20- 22, if
you look hard enough, you’ll find a regional journalist’s blood, sweat
and tears behind many a national story.

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