WHEN Griffith Wright the elder founded this newspaper as the then Leedes Intelligencer in 1754 he did so with this pledge:
“Whatever may be propos’d for the support of virtue and religion amongst us, for the improvement of trade and manufactures of this part of the country, for the encouragement of industry, the better maintenance or employment of the poor; in short, whatever may usefully instruct or innocently amuse the reader will be suitable matter of intelligence for this paper; And whatever is propos’d to this end in a way not likely to give occasion of offence, will be gratefully receiv’d and faithfully and impartially communicated to the public, by, candid reader, Your most obedient humble servant: The Publisher.”
Scroll forwards 264 years and that pledge, which hangs prominently on my office wall, serves to remind me, as the deeply proud editor of your historic newspaper, that I am your most humble servant whilst occupying this chair, and that it is my responsibility to lead this institution with courage and care in equal measure.
Care: for the people served by The Yorkshire Post, first and foremost. Few businesses live alongside their customers in the same way a newspaper does. We tell your stories; capture your ideas; celebrate your achievements; campaign for your causes; lobby for investment; record triumph and disaster just the same.
We are proud to call ourselves Yorkshire’s National Newspaper and take seriously the duty we have to the people who live and work here – regardless of whether or not they read The Yorkshire Post – as we hold true to our mission of doing nothing that is not in the best interests of Yorkshire.
Care also for the people this newspaper employs. Knowing that the livelihoods of so many people who live locally with their families depend on the success of this newspaper and its digital media is a responsibility I take very seriously, and it is also one which energises myself and my teams to bust a gut, day in day out, in an industry presently peppered by poison arrows from all angles.
Courage: the courage to say things some find uncomfortable. Exposing criminality and corruption where we find it, whilst fearlessly putting names to those deserving censure. Courage to tackle ineptitude in public office where it threatens the fortunes of this region. Courage, in a world where some publishers are turning to titillating clickbait, to hold firm our belief in and our commitment to – a financial one as well as an altruistic one – thoughtful, professional, high quality journalism.
And so it was perhaps perversely appropriate that last week, after a day in the office putting together over 200 pages of our much-loved weekend package, I was heading north for a weekend break with my two young boys, my wife and our trusty Golden Retriever to one of Yorkshire’s myriad perfect little villages, Leavening, when the news reached me late into Friday evening that the owners of The Yorkshire Post – Johnston Press – had gone into administration.
It is difficult to articulate here the concoction of emotions which floods your system in such circumstances. I had so much to do. Phone calls to make. Colleagues – who have become friends – that I needed to speak to in order to inform them my way. The right way. Customers; advertisers; readers. What about the readers? What about the journalism?
I began to think of all that we’ve achieved in the three years I’ve been here: from revealing the vulgar payments made to returning officers for overseeing elections to previously hidden links in the way the Battle of Orgreave and the Hillsborough disaster were policed. The relentless scrutiny we’re applying to the Transport Secretary for his omnishambles on the railways up here. The “love letters” David Cameron sent to the whole country which were cynically designed to ingratiate him to the regions but were shown up by this newspaper as a hollow sham. Our loneliness campaign. In that moment, the very essence of the loneliness campaign made complete sense.
I opened Twitter, the platform I use most these days to have conversations with those who read The Yorkshire Post, be it online or in print. What I saw is that which compelled me to write this essay.
Message after message of support for me personally; for my teams; for the paper. Offers of help. Hundreds of them, and sincerely meant. And perhaps most tellingly, vis-a-vis good newspapers like this one, messages from people who said: “You know, I don’t always agree with some of the journalism I see in The Yorkshire Post but I shall defend to the death your right to undertake it.”
Over the coming hours last weekend it became clear that new owners – JPIMedia – were to take on The Yorkshire Post and that we were in fact going to continue trading without so much as missing a beat.
Except, it is now patently clear that something did skip a beat last weekend; the hearts of those who understand why it is so important to have The Yorkshire Post standing tall for this county as its lighthouse, warding off those who wish us ill whilst shining a light into dark places.
I appreciate that not everyone has the time to sit down and read a newspaper in the modern world, but I find it difficult to comprehend that right-minded Yorkshire residents don’t value the role this newspaper plays on behalf of the county, knowing that one day it could be you or your community that needs our help.
Of course, I am acutely aware that by virtue of you reading this I am preaching to the converted. To you, I say thank you whilst urging you to ask a friend to read this, too. Someone who doesn’t subscribe, willing to stand up for this newspaper as it is willing to stand up for them. In doing so, you will be reciprocating the pledge made to Yorkshire by Griffith Wright the elder so that many more humble servants will stand ready and willing before you long after I have departed.