Local journalism should be a force for good — and we all play a part in that

There has never been a greater need for local journalists to understand their communities and give a voice to the voiceless, says Michael Yong, education and local news reporter at BristolLive.

Michael Yong

When I was told the Office of National Statistics (ONS) would be releasing information about the number of homeless people who died in each region, I was not surprised.

It is something I’ve known for years — that journalists working together, rather than against each other, will always lead to results.

Earlier this year, I joined the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s (TBIJ) Dying Homeless project.

I had been writing about homelessness for the past two years and was enthralled by the idea of journalists around the country feeding into a single database.

The campaign worked, but there is much more to be done.

I’m about to leave the Bristol Post / Live after four years at the paper/website, and I’m so grateful for the stories I’ve had the privilege to cover here.

Two years ago, we were part of a campaign to raise £400,000 for a man with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia and with little hope of survival. He is alive and very well today.

Kim Fawcett

In August 2017, I met a young lady who bravely waived her anonymity to talk about being abused by her mum’s partner. Kim’s story inspired hundreds of women to come forward, and her little Meetup group has just become a charity with 425 women.

A new bill is set to go before Parliament after we covered the death of a young man in hospital.

And while finding the details of every homeless person who died in Bristol over the last five years has taking a mental toll, I’m glad I did not leave them as just a number.

Those are the stories that will stay with me for a lifetime, and I’ve never been more sure that journalism can bring about social change.

The way we write about homelessness has changed massively in the last few years. Most newsrooms now understand the issue on a much deeper level.

Here in Bristol, we’ve seen several volunteer groups spring up in the last two years, and I’d like to believe the Post has played a part in that.

An editor I worked with once told me a journalist’s greatest privilege is being allowed into the lives of the people they write about, sometimes in their darkest hour.

It is a privilege we can never take for granted.

As with any modern newsroom, we spend time talking about page views, engagement time, trending stories and stories that might ‘go viral’.

But there has never been a better time, and greater need, for local journalists to understand deeply what their communities care about and tell the stories of those who otherwise go unheard.

Because if we do so, local journalism will always be a force for good.