Devon and Cornwall Media
I’m well aware that in squaring up to columnists writing for dailies in some of our great cities whose circulations are orders of magnitude greater than that of my tiny weekly in the remote west, I’m chancing my arm somewhat. Wherever it appears, however many or few people read it, good writing is still good writing. I don’t write a column in order to provoke synthetic outrage – I leave that to social media – so it’s perhaps not surprising that the most I ever get in the way of reader feedback is the odd email expressing quiet approval. Where protest screams, praise only whispers, and that’s fine with me; I can get by quite happily without the tsunami of online abuse that lets my digital colleagues know when they’ve touched a nerve. If my column has a purpose at all (and I wouldn’t necessarily say it needs one) it’s to entertain, or so I hope, and perhaps to make people think about something that’s happening in our far-flung part of the world from a different perspective. Above all, I try to add value and distinctiveness to a product which has been starved of resources for so long that it bears only a passing relationship to the newspapers on which I learned my craft not all that many years ago. Shrinking budgets have seen staff numbers dwindle, and newspapers which are mostly consumed by people in their forties or even older are now more or less reliant on copy written for the web by reporters young enough to be their readers’ children, or even grandchildren. With the emphasis on easily digestible and shareable online content, few if any of them write long-form journalism (other than in the sense of no longer needing to observe a maximum word count). Our task as print journalists is to make the Cornish Guardian as different from its sister website as it can possibly be – to make it worth buying, in other words – and my column is part of that effort. It’s original, and usually oblique; frequently abstract, if not actually abstruse; and tries to mitigate the sad reality that while local newspapers are still able to deal in facts, ideas are often now in short supply. It’s not selling something; it isn’t written by a sitting, or aspiring, MP or a local councillor, relentlessly grinding their own particular political axe, nor churned out by some local businessperson in the name of free publicity; it’s writing for the sake and the love of writing, and for the sake and the love of Cornwall, a place with its own character and its own challenges which has been misrepresented in the national media for so long we sometimes have to remind ourselves who we really are: that this county isn’t just a scenic backdrop for holiday snaps, costume drama, political posturing or property porn.