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Bury St Edmunds columnist Michael Apichella extols the virtues of local newspapers

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As I’ve worked in journalism my whole life, I’m saddened the newspaper industry is statistically now on the endangered species list, and is likely to go the way of FM radio, vinyl discs, 8-track tapes, cassettes, CDs, and DVDs, to name a few pieces of technology to bite the dust in my lifetime.

Having said that, this week I want to present some good and bad news pertaining to the UK newspaper industry.

First the bad. Recent surveys show the overall average weekday sales of newspapers fell last year over the previous year, a steady decade-long trend. Moreover, national newspaper circulations show falling print sales across the board, with web figures down, some by double figures.

Author Michael Apichella who has written a book which will be serialised in the Bury Free Press.. (12773268)
Author Michael Apichella who has written a book which will be serialised in the Bury Free Press.. (12773268)

To an avid paper-reader like me, there’s nothing better than meeting friends over this newspaper talking about current-events, bickering over the ‘Youth View’, or pondering the varied media theories of Kim Morrison in coffee bars like No. 5 Angel Hill, Really Rather Good Coffee & Tea Shop, Lottie’s Artisan Waffles & Coffee shop, Guat’s Up, Baileys 2, Marlow’s Coffee Shop, The Coffee House, Patty & Scott’s, Apex Coffee Shop and many more excellent eateries around the area where customers gather.

Just imagine Bury without the Bury Free Press. A paper is British democracy itself. As a prominent statesman once said, “If I had to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

By the way, I put our local library in the same category as our paper. The thing I like about libraries is all sides of an issue are there – pro, con and neutral, in volumes of hard copy, in journals, and in books, unlike on TV, radio or web pages where spin-doctors often do the thinking for you in mere ‘info-bites’. Libraries, like newspapers, offer knowledge, and knowledge is still power.

In my introduction, I said there was good news, too: Newspapers, like vinyl discs, are seeing a resurgence in popularity. At least that’s been my experience since I began writing this column. To that end, here’s a wonderful statistic that I came across only last week. A major new audience monitoring system was launched recently which dispels the myth that young people have turned their back on local publishers.

By combining print and digital audiences for local newspaper publishers, it demonstrates more than 10 million young adults – aged between 15 and 34 – are reading local news from sources such as the Bury Free Press on their mobile devices, or traditional print products, reaching some 40.6 million young adults monthly. That’s good news.

The wonderful thing about local newspapers is how they present news relevant to their readers. For example, colleagues and friends all gathered and gave a robust round of applause for the late Jenny Bradley, 76, a long-serving Marks & Spencer employee as her hearse passed by the shop earlier this month. Staff gathered outside the shop to pay their respects to the company’s longest-serving employee in the country. Jenny began at M&S on October 3, 1960. How’d I know? I read it in this paper!

Finally, on a strictly personal note, thanks to the many folks who take time to let me know they’ve read this column since group editor Barry Peters offered me the job two and-a-half years ago. We all have only one past but there are many futures, and I enjoy contributing to Bury’s fabulous future. So if you have something you’d like area folks to know about, drop me a line and I’ll spread the word.