LOCAL newspapers, like the Londonderry Sentinel, were today exempted from any criticism levelled by Lord Justice Leveson at the newspaper industry.
Furthermore, he called on the Government to implement urgent action to protect them.
In fact, Lord Justice Leveson praised local newspapers, saying they were not affected by the issues surrounding ethics which were raised, and that the contribution made by the local press was “truly without parallel.”
Lord Justice Leveson said that while complaints about accuracy and other issues were made about regional titles, the criticisms of the press culture raised at the inquiry did not affect them.
His report said: “In relation to regional and local newspapers, I do not make a specific recommendation but I suggest that the Government should look urgently as what action it might be able take to help safeguard the ongoing viability of this much valued and important part of the British press.
“It is clear to me that local, high-quality and trusted newspapers are good for our communities, our identity and our democracy and play an important social role.”
The judge added that the model of regulation proposed in his report ”should not provide an added burden to the regional and local press”.
He said: “As to the commercial problems facing newspapers, I must make a special point about Britain’s regional newspapers. In one sense, they are less affected by the global availability of the biggest news stories but their contribution to local life is truly without parallel.
“Supported by advertisements (and, in particular, local property, employment, motor and personal), this source of income is increasingly migrating to the internet; local councils are producing local newsletters and therefore making less use of their local papers.
“Many are no longer financially viable and they are all under enormous pressure as they strive to re-write the business model necessary for survival. Yet their demise would be a huge setback for communities (where they report on local politics, occurrences in the local courts, local events, local sports and the like) and would be a real loss for our democracy.
“Although accuracy and similar complaints are made against local newspapers, the criticisms of culture, practices and ethics of the press that have been raised in this Inquiry do not affect them: on the contrary, they have been much praised.
“The problem surrounding their preservation is not within the Terms of Reference of the Inquiry but I am very conscious of the need to be mindful of their position as I consider the wider picture.”