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NICKY MARR: Local news has never been more important

By Nicky Marr

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Stoltman Brothers
Stoltman Brothers

I’m just back from a week’s skiing in France. Long days on the slopes followed by cheese-fuelled evenings meant I barely looked at my phone, helping me with my recent goal to use it less.

I took photos of achingly blue skies for Instagram and Facebook, and of Mr Marr’s fall from grace when he broke his shoulder (again) on day two. But in between skiing, eating, sleeping, and tying Mr Marr’s shoelaces, what I did very little of, was reading the news.

I heard the big stuff; about Trump’s worrying victory in New Hampshire, and another plot to replace Sunak. I also heard more rows surrounding Sturgeon’s disappearing WhatsApp messages, but what really grabbed my attention was news of what was happening right at home, with the storms that were raging during our absence.

Between news websites, political podcasts, and LBC, I must subject myself to at least two or three hours of news and current affairs every day.

How much of it do I retain? Honestly, very little. How much of it directly affects me? Even less. But how much does near-immersion in global and national affairs actually impact me? If I’m honest, more than I care to admit. Constant outrage and despair doesn’t do much for my mood.

Nothing that I do or say or think or feel will change what is happening in Gaza, Yemen, or the English Channel. Yet because I can access all the world’s news all the time, I feel an obligation to keep on top of it. And I carry it with me – the awfulness of destroyed and wasted lives, the madness of world leaders, the injustice of mass shootings and war.

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When in fact what is really important, is to keep abreast of the issues that I can do something about, or which directly impact my life and the lives of my family and friends. And that’s where local news comes into its own.

As I write, the most-read story on The Inverness Courier website is about Tom Stoltman winning Britain’s Strongest Man on Saturday night, and local broadcast bulletins are leading with the story of the escaped macaque from the Highland Wildlife Park.

There’s obvious interest, too, in the provision of local health services, local education and schools, and in the state of local roads. Will the A9 and A96 be upgraded in my lifetime? In the lifetime of my children? These things really do matter to me, to you, and to the people we know and love.

If a week away from the toxic minutiae that feeds a 24-hour rolling news agenda has taught me anything, it’s that I may have finally reached “peak news”. I have nowhere to hold all that information. And the more of it that I hold, the more it drags me down.

This Friday, local journalists from across the Highlands, Islands and Moray will gather together in Inverness to eat, drink, be merry… and celebrate the best amongst them, at the annual Highland and Islands Press Ball and Media Awards.

Alongside the business writers, young reporters, photographers, and sports journalists celebrated on the night, awards will be made to newspapers and feature writers, and for the campaign of the year.

Local news has probably never been more important. Only local journalists will hold locally elected representatives to account. Only a local newspaper can campaign for a local road to be upgraded or a local school to be reopened. Only a local journalist can highlight the impact of the closure of a maternity unit, bank branch, or GP surgery on a community which comprises you, me, and our neighbours and friends.

Of course it’s important to keep an eye on the bigger, global picture, but the trick must be to worry about what we can influence. Local news matters. And I’ll be delightedly dancing among the best of the local best this Friday.

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