Why Are You Surprised Local Journalists Are Good?
Prime Minister Liz Truss got a hard time on BBC Local Radio.
One of the big issues in journalism is the demise of local and regional media and how this blocks a key pathway for those trying to get into the industry, limiting newsroom diversity. People like to talk about how important local outlets are as an entry point, but too few do something to make them sustainable. Of course, local media is also essential for democracy - somebody needs to pay attention to what is going on in the Town Hall.
There are some great local/regional print outlets in the UK doing this work and more. Unfortunately, many others have been reduced to freesheets stuffed with naff advertising. While ITN has very well-regarded local bulletins, the BBC and its slate of TV bulletins and radio stations dominate local and regional broadcast coverage. (Indeed, there is an argument that the BBC's prominence in this area, particularly online, facilitated the demise of many local papers.)
The full force of BBC Local Radio was deployed on Thursday, as new UK Prime Minister Liz Truss did a pre-Conservative Party Conference tour of various stations. It was not a great outing for the PM, to put it mildly. It started with her being asked on BBC Radio Leeds how she'd slept following the chaos prompted by her government’s not-so-mini budget and included a jibe about tax cuts and Robin Hood from BBC Radio Nottingham, as well as a grilling over fracking from BBC Radio Lancashire.
Truss seemed most comfortable when talking to BBC Radio Norfolk, the station covering her own constituency, but even there she had an uncomfortable time when questioned about the state of the local hospital. Throughout the conversations, there were awkward silences from the Conservative leader as she tried to divert all attention to the government's support for energy bills and away from the market chaos of the last week.
One interesting part of the fallout from all this was the surprise expressed by some, mostly online, that local hacks could do quite a good job of holding the Prime Minister's feet to the fire. Sure, there were some showy moments from various presenters hoping to generate a viral clip. However, the interviews were mostly experienced and talented journalists posing the questions that their listeners wanted to be asked. The hosts gave the Prime Minister the space to speak while also pushing back and working to get the most out of the limited time available to them. No easy feat.
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