The changing face of how we bring you the news

Paul Larkin.
Paul Larkin.
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IT is coincidence but no less fitting that the last broadsheet Northumberland Gazette will be published in Local Newspaper Week.

The Gazette has been a central part of the communities in the north of the county since it was established as the Alnwick Mercury 158 years ago.

And we want it remain at the heart of life here for many years to come.

But to do so, we recognise it must adapt to modern society and earn its place in today’s entangled communication networks and outlets.

The demand for news in paper format is still very much there but we have to fit in with hectic lifestyles and technological advances that no one could have predicted even a decade ago, let alone in 1854.

The Gazette will need to embrace those innovations – the likes of social media, mobile phone apps and whatever the latest must-have is just around the corner – while not forgetting our core values and principles.

And so part of the change will be to reduce the physical size of the paper to a compact format, at the same time doubling the pagination and embracing a new, dynamic look befitting modern society.

We started asking readers what they wanted from their local newspaper back in 2008 in a programme of extensive research which included the shape of the paper.

There was an overwhelming response in favour of converting to a compact, but a clear message that the integrity and tradition built up over generations should be retained.

It is interesting to note that the Gazette started all those years ago almost tabloid in size and so, in a way, we are returning to our roots!

The challenges the newspaper industry, in general, faces nowadays are immense, with competition for readers from a myriad of sources.

But papers, and local newspapers in particular, have stood the test of time, thriving alongside the innovations of the telephone, radio, television and, more recently, the internet.

The element of trust in a local paper cannot be underestimated, especially in these days of rumour, counter-rumour, malicious accusation and downright lies blitzing social media.

I have often heard it said from readers that they will not believe something is true until they read it in the Gazette.

Bottom drawers all over the county will be home to cuttings of family weddings, treasured moments or special anniversaries.

Readers know that the news is written by highly-trained reporters, who can be trusted to check their facts and give equal say to both sides of an argument .

Local newspapers remain the respected conduit through which communities communicate, with the important caveats of legality and decency. They are a respected member of the family – exactly what is celebrated during Local Newspaper Week from Monday to Sunday next week.

The painfully-drawn-out Leveson Inquiry has cast a dark shadow over standards in national journalism. Thankfully and justly, local journalists are not being tarred with the same brush.

Next week will be an emotional, historic and exciting time for all of us as we bid a fond farewell to the broadsheet Gazette. As editor, I remain positive about this new era for the Gazette and hope you join us on the journey.