FOR decades, local newspapers have faced fierce competition.
First there was the radio, then television, now of course, the internet.
But despite all these challenges, they continue to play a vital role and that’s testament to the extraordinary creativity and versatility of all those people who work in local media.
Local newspapers are hugely important to our country – for two good reasons.
First, they strengthen our democracy, holding the powerful to account.
Whereas national newspapers can focus on the bigger picture, it’s local papers that often really analyse the detail of what central and local government is doing and the impact their policies have on the ground.
In the weeks and months ahead, I expect local papers to continue to scrutinise everything this government does in their area and act as a voice for their readers.
Second, local papers are hugely important in helping to build a bigger, stronger society.
There is a massive gap between the state on the one hand, and the individual on the other, and local papers help fill the space in between, galvanising readers into action.
That could be by campaigning on local issues, highlighting local clubs, groups, businesses and societies and encouraging people to get involved, or championing local people who are playing their part to make their community a better place.
By shining a spotlight on this good work, local papers persuade others to do more – and I want to see more of it.
That’s why I would like to take this opportunity, as we celebrate Local Newspaper Week, to ask local newspapers and you, their readers, to show off even more of the great work taking place in your community and nominate your local heroes for the Government’s Big Society Awards.
There have been 16 winners to date, recognising the remarkable work going on in towns and cities up and down the country, by all kinds of organisations from large enterprises to tiny grassroots schemes and inspirational individuals.
This week, I am hosting a reception for the first round of award winners in Downing Street.
I hope that in the months ahead I’ll be able to meet and hear about many more of the people making such a valuable contribution to their community.