NICKY MARR: Local news is an invaluable resource
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If you’re reading this, you’re already winning; you are consuming local media.
In an age where any news outlet can be accessed, 24/7, from any hand-held device in the world, you have chosen to check-in with what’s happening here in the north of Scotland. Welcome. It’s good to have you on board.
It’s something we take for granted, isn’t it, our local media?
Yet it keeps locally elected representatives accountable, and exposes wrongdoing and misdemeanours, injustices, and inequalities.
And it celebrates all the good that’s around – the wins, successes, brilliant community campaigns, and the people who make our communities what they are.
Local media allows us to build trusting relationships with the voices on air and on the page.
It offers entertainment, as well as information and education. Which makes it invaluable.
When we moved to Inverness, 25 years ago this week, my two-pronged strategy for getting to know the area was to read The Inverness Courier and to listen to MFR.
The Courier was the big sister in the relationship, published since 1817; MFR a mere stripling of 15 years old.
I arrived knowing relatively little about Inverness and the wider Highlands, but immersing myself in local media helped me to feel that I belonged.
We saw our house for sale in the paper and, after moving in, furnished it with tables and chairs from the classifieds, and bought garden tools from the on-air equivalent – Tradio.
There was a small-ad in the classifieds about a mother and toddler group in the church round the corner.
I plucked up my courage (and my baby) and opened the door; the women I met there are still my best friends.
It seemed inconceivable that I’d one day be on air too. But things have a strange way of falling into place, and I co-hosted MFR breakfast for 13 years, with Tich, then Gary, then Ginno.
And who knew that a spectacular outside broadcast from The Caribbean on board HMS Sutherland (ask me another time, it’s a very long story) would put me into contact with Jim Love, the then editor of The Inverness Courier, and I’d find myself – terrifyingly – writing this column for the past 20 years?
This weekend, on Sunday, February 23, 2022, MFR turns 40.
It’s older – by just a few months – than the Kessock Bridge.
Economic forces (and many changes in ownership over the decades) mean it’s a different beast to the community-based programming of my early days there.
Back then, Tich and I welcomed guests every day. They were musicians and performers, footballers and politicians, and people from local charities and community groups.
We chose our own music and the formula worked.
By staying true to the communities we served we regularly topped UK listening figures charts.
Times change, but the need for local media never will.
Tune in to MFR 2 this Sunday evening for a trip down memory lane.
You’ll hear a few familiar voices.
And keep supporting local media. It matters more than ever.