IF there is one thing I have learned during my four years in journalism it is that people love a good moan.
Potholes, parking, traffic, trains – readers’ gripes are the bread and butter of local news, and we would be nowhere without them.
But what should our approach be when a good news story comes our way? Should we embrace the positives or be the voice of doom?
Earlier this month the London to Surrey Cycle Classic brought the towns of Dorking and Leatherhead, and several surrounding villages, to a standstill. Thousands of spectators lined the streets to watch 140 elite cyclists tackle the Olympic route.
For a fairly sleepy rural district this was a pretty big deal. It took a lot of planning by Surrey County Council, the Olympic organising committee, the police and various other bodies, all of whom came in for their share of flack on our letters page.
The main gripe was the road closures. We haven’t been told what’s happening, traders claimed. We will be prisoners in our own homes, residents complained. We even received a press release from a wildlife charity saying animals’ lives would be in danger.
As it turned out, the event went smoothly and was hailed as a success. But it raised some interesting questions about the role of a local newspaper.
On one hand we should absolutely be holding the authorities to account, questioning their methods and using our power to get the answers the readers cannot.
But with an event like this it is also our duty to celebrate our district, to promote the business opportunities it will create and to reflect the genuine excitement of the majority of residents.
We can’t win. But we will continue to try.
This piece has also been published by Fleet Street Blues.