The Papers (BBC) review - yes, regional newspapers are different from the nationals, and this programme showed why we should be worried that they are in danger of disappearing

The newsroom of The Herald, in Glasgow
The newsroom of The Herald, in Glasgow

Saying you love newspapers these days is the kind of declaration that could be viewed with the same disgust as claiming you love drowning kittens.

And the headlines this week will not have improved the image of certain brands. But if you watched BBC Scotland’s The Papers (BBC iPlayer) you will have seen the journalism I love.

Pasty-faced people in saggy jumpers, with baggy eyes, sat in front of computers in fluorescent-lit bunkers, stained roof tiles bulging overhead, attempting to fit words in boxes on screens.

The series focuses on The Herald, one of Scotland’s oldest newspapers, and it’s pro-independence little brother, The National.

Their issues are different from ours here in the north west, but the challenges are the same. Newspapers woke up to the internet far too late, and have spent far too long trying to adapt. Herald editor-in-chief Donald Martin says: “People consume news in a different way. We’ve just got to make sure we manage the decline in print.”

But there’s the rub. The Herald has seen its circulation fall from 130,000 copies a day in the 90s to 22,000 now, but digital revenue doesn’t begin to make up the shortfall – print still brings in the cash.

In the meantime, different ‘strategies’ arrive and depart every year, and the redundancy merry-go-round arrives every six months.

Online, paywalls spark objections, as readers who would once have paid 50p a day for their paper refuse to part with 40p a day to read the news on their phones.

Yet, when local papers disappear, who will you go to in order to find out about the massive housing development at the end of the road, or that lovely lady at No.30 who has raised thousands of pounds for charity?

Local papers, from the Herald in Glasgow, to the Chronicle in Newcastle, to the Echo in Southampton, the Argus in South Wales and the Post here in Lancashire can serve as trusted voices amid the tumult of fake news, Twitter storms and council propaganda sheets.

I have a vested interest in the survival of local papers, of course, but so do all who care about where they live. You don't know what you've got til it's gone, and in our case, that may not be long.

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