Boris Johnson promises regional editors: “I’ll keep you supplied with stories”
Dozens of regional newsroom editors and political reporters along with editorial directors and CEOs attended the annual Downing Street reception for the industry, hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Despite a hectic schedule in Parliament, and the ongoing negotiations over Brexit across Europe, the Prime Minister took time to reflect on his time working in the regional press — and insisted he understood how important local news was in the UK.
Newsquest editorial director Toby Granville quizzed the Prime Minister on what his plans are to support the regional press, while Newsquest CEO Henry Faure Walker and NMA CEO David Newell pressed him for the need for the Government to put in place without further delays practical and meaningful measures following the Cairncross Review.
In particular, Faure Walker told the PM that Newsquest has been lobbying the Government for an expansion of third party funded Public Interest Reporters, with a focus on court coverage, based on a similar model to the Local Democracy Reporters.
Here is the Prime Minister’s address to journalists at Downing Street:
“Thank you very much for coming along this evening. Extensive searches on Google have just confirmed to me what I have long believed to be the case — I am the first Prime Minister of this country to have begun a professional career as a journalist on a regional newspaper. That’s absolutely true.
As you know, I was on the Express and Star, where if there was a toddler locked in the toilet, or a cat stuck up a tree, or if an elderly gentleman had discovered an unexploded WW2 bomb in his back garden, as often happened, then I would be sent on that story. I was also sent on UFO stories, for some reason, and the great Dave Knight of the Wolverhampton Express and Star, told me that they didn’t do UFO stories. He memorably said to me once, he said, do it the right way, do it the Express and Star way, and I’ve tried to follow that.
And as a former newspaper journalist I know the unbelievable importance of your institutions to the communities that you serve. You are the cultural news, political lifeblood of the areas that you serve and I have one mission in my remaining time in No10, however long that may be — and it might be longer than some of you think — I have one mission which is, as you know, to keep you supplied with stories.
And what we’re going to do is we’re going to be levelling up across the whole of the UK with infrastructure…. we’re going to be doing all sorts of things — that I hope will make stories on your pages — wonderful stories about improving education, about investing in local hospitals. And I’ll be doing a huge amount more of that over the next few weeks and months, and generally of unlocking the incredible talent, not just of London and the south east — although I was former mayor of this great city — but unlocking the talent of every region and every nation in this amazing United Kingdom.
That is the mission, to bring this country together with infrastructure, better education and technology. And it’s high time that the whole country had gigabit broadband in every home so that they can get your wonderful products online as well as in print — is that what you want? Or do you want to sell them just in hard copy? It’s a wonderful thing to get local newspapers online. It is a disgrace that this country is so far behind with gigabit broadband.
That is what we are going to do and I cannot tell you when exactly we are going to be allowed to make our case again to the British people and to seek the thumping mandate and majority I think we need to take this country forward. But what I can tell you is that when that moment happens, and it may be pretty soon, that I will make sure we get out and about to see you all and I make myself available to everybody and that we keep you fully supplied with the stories that you want.
So thank you all very much for coming along tonight. Thank you for everything that you do, and see you at the barricades, whenever that moment may come.”