Investigating injustice, highlighting residents’ concerns and telling readers what is happening in their Town Hall and local communities. As part of Local Newspaper Week, Mike Russell looks at how The Star works for our readers and Prime Minister David Cameron writes about the importance of local newspapers
WHAT makes a great local newspaper?
It goes without saying that your Star is packed every night with the best, most interesting tales from Sheffield and around the South Yorkshire region – but that’s not all.
A top newspaper is not just the best source for news, sport, gossip and entertainment – it’s much more. It doesn’t just report the daily doings of our great city and its many communities, it’s a part of them.
The Star gets under the skin of the issues that matter, plays a vital role in leading opinion and provides a forum and a voice for readers to have their say on life as they see it.
News must always come first. Over the last year the political landscape has shifted dramatically and the agenda has been dominated by shrinking budgets and the inevitability of cuts.
The Star has been first to highlight the true impact of the decisions being made at Whitehall, in our Town Halls and by administrators.
Our series of stories on the impact of spending cuts – with our How The Cuts Bite logo – has looked at how vital services such as the police, hospitals and schools will be affected.
We know the stories too that really get your goat – Sheffield’s disgraceful reputation as Pothole City, traffic planners who do more harm than good with their ‘management systems’, schools which are still not as effective as they should be.
We launched our Women of Steel campaign to gain recognition for the unsung heroes of World War II – women who toiled in the factories at home carrying out essential work while the men fought overseas.
As a result of our campaign, the women travelled from South Yorkshire to 10 Downing Street in style and met the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown and received a certificate recognising their contribution to the war effort from a government minister.
The women received national media attention – and there are now plans to erect a statue in tribute to them in Sheffield.
Our annual Star Superkids awards recognises the most brave, talented, kind-hearted and community-spirited children across South Yorkshire.
Every year, our readers nominate a whole host of children for the awards, which showcases the very best of local youngsters.
From triumphing over adversity, to citizenship, bravery and supporting families, Superkids shows the very best of the next generation of adults.
This year, brave four-year-old Niamh Coyne, who is on the road to recovery after undergoing two liver transplants, was star of the show after being presented with the Special Award.
We also tackle the tough issues and back our readers when they need our help.
Our Justice for Matt campaign stood shoulder to shoulder with the family of Matt Cryer, the Sheffield teenager killed while on holiday in Greece.
Now, after a long campaign by Matt’s parents, the investigation into the murder has been officially reopened by Greek Police – sparking hope the men who killed him will be finally brought to justice.
Matt’s family has been fighting since July 2008 for the Greek authorities to pursue their son’s killers after he died on holiday on the island of Zante.
The 17-year-old, who was born and brought up in Frecheville, was on his first holiday abroad with pals when he was punched, hurled down a flight of stairs by bouncers and left for dead.
A British inquest in 2009 ruled Matt was unlawfully killed – but Greek police refused to open a criminal inquiry into his death.
Now, in a victory for the Justice For Matt campaign, the Greek authorities have finally agreed to re-open proceedings.
And if our readers have personal problems, we aim to help. Action Desk has been tackling thorny consumer issues for more than 17 years now and it’s as busy as ever.
And when our charities need a hand, The Star is there.
We launched a campaign to help Macmillan Cancer Support celebrate its centenary year by raising £100,000 with the help of leading local companies.
Businesses came to our aid and eager employees took part in a wide range of fundraising activities.
We’re also backing the up-coming Starlight Walk to mark the 40th anniversary of Sheffield’s St Luke’s Hospice, and which should raise £50,000. And we backed a drive to raise money to create a research centre for the deadly motor neurone disease in the city.
We know how much you care about sport – especially the region’s football teams, no matter how well or badly they may be faring!
Over the last year we’ve increased the depth and range of The Star’s coverage with the introduction of our weekly Grass Roots supplement, which looks at the huge range of recreation enjoyed by ordinary people, not just the pros.
It’s been a similar story with schools. Never have activities in our primaries, secondaries and colleges been so closely covered thanks to the photo-packed Class Act weekly, which has proved to be such a hit with parents, pupils and teachers alike.
And we know Sheffield is a city with a fabulous past – our most popular recent innovation has been the Saturday Retro supplement, which celebrates everything that is great about our history and heritage.
All these special features only work so well because of you, the reader – your ideas, contributions and opinions make them the success they are.
We also like to celebrate all that is good about our area. Our annual sports awards honour the year’s high achievers, both teams and individuals. And for mums and dads who just know their little ones are simply the best – well, our Cute Kids feature says it all.
If it matters, and if it matters to you, The Star will be there – and there’s much more to come.
‘Local newspapers continue to play a vital role’
I am delighted to send my full support to the Newspaper Society’s Local Newspaper Week.
For decades, local newspapers have faced fierce competition. First there was the radio, then television, now of course, the internet.
But despite all these challenges, they continue to play a vital role and that’s testament to the extraordinary creativity and versatility of all those people who work in local media.
Local newspapers are hugely important to our country - for two good reasons. First, they strengthen our democracy, holding the powerful to account.
Whereas national newspapers can focus on the bigger picture, it’s local papers that often really analyse the detail of what central and local government is doing and the impact their policies have on the ground.
In the weeks and months ahead, I expect local papers to continue to scrutinise everything this government does in their area and act as a voice for their readers.
Second, local papers are hugely important in helping to build a bigger, stronger society.
There is a massive gap between the state on the one hand, and the individual on the other, and local papers help fill the space in between, galvanising readers into action.
That could be by campaigning on local issues, highlighting local clubs, groups, businesses and societies and encouraging people to get involved, or championing local people who are playing their part to make their community a better place. By shining a spotlight on this good work, local papers persuade others to do more - and I want to see more of it.
That’s why I would like to take this opportunity, as we celebrate Local Newspaper Week, to ask local newspapers and you, their readers, to show off even more of the great work taking place in your community and nominate your local heroes for the Government’s Big Society Awards.
There have been 16 winners to date, recognising the remarkable work going on in towns and cities up and down the country, by all kinds of organisations from large enterprises to tiny grassroots schemes and inspirational individuals.
This week, I am hosting a reception for the first round of award winners in Downing Street. I hope that in the months ahead I’ll be able to meet and hear about many more of the people making such a valuable contribution to their community.