Opinion: Why Norfolk and its people should not be afraid to take a long hard look at themselves

PUBLISHED: 12:53 29 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:32 29 October 2019

Picture perfect Wells. Picture: David Bale

Picture perfect Wells. Picture: David Bale


There are times when being the editor of a local newspaper and website can feel a little like walking a tightrope.

You can put all your efforts and concentration into getting it right for 95pc of the way - then let your gaze slip for just one moment and you'll fall off the side and undo all that good work.

We publish around 500 stories in an average week and 499 of them can be spot on, accurate, balanced, fair and informative, but if just one of those stories falls down in an area it can come back to bite us. And rightly so.

Of course it's up to us to ensure we have the staff and the structure in place to ensure that doesn't happen and I'm very fortunate to work with some of the very best journalists in regional media.

But when you consider our teams publish content seven days a week for almost, but not quite, 24 hours a day, occasionally things can slip under the radar.

One area in which I believe it is vital to get this absolutely right is in the balance of the type of stories we cover.

In discussions with the public I often talk about our role to highlight wrongdoings, failings and areas of concern in the county. Examples of this of late include the ongoing issues around county lines and drugs, worrying pockets of deprivation in some of our communities and High Street struggles.

All of these are big talking points and all of these warrant in-depth exploration.

However, I also believe the majority of people who live in Norfolk feel lucky to be here and realise that, despite the issues, it's a pretty wonderful part of the country.

We therefore have to strive a balance between highlighting those concerns and not making people feel overly and perhaps unduly depressed about county life.

That's why when it comes to the paper, you'll often see a mix of heavy and lighter stories on the front page - or we'll give over page 3 to a quirky story. It's known in the industry as 'light and shade'.

And we had a perfect example of where we give this a lot of thought just last week when a couple, originally from London, came to us to highlight their concerns about how some so-called 'outsiders' were treated in the town of Wells-next-the-Sea.

I'll be honest, since publishing that story I've had several correspondences from readers saying it was a load of nonsense and had no place in a regional newspaper.

However, I feel the opposite and stand by the story and the important issues it raised. Nobody is perfect and I believe collectively in Norfolk we should be brave enough to occasionally put a mirror to our own actions. And, if we don't like what we see, act to make changes.

Hand on heart, I don't imagine Wells has any worse a problem accepting newcomers than anywhere else in Norfolk - and probably beyond.

However, as far as that couple we're concerned they did have a negative experience. I'd like to think publishing the story prompted all who read it to at least pause for a second and check this is not something they themselves contribute towards when welcoming people into their own communities.

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