I am not a graceful orator; it isn’t my natural habitat. I don’t always speak the right words and often end up kicking myself for having not said what I wanted to when the cameras rolled or the ‘On Air’ light illuminated. But I know I have to put myself out there in the hope I catch the attention of those who are willing to support what it is we stand for.
An inevitable barrage of abuse will follow - via Twitter, mostly but email, too - whenever I appear on national television or radio. The vast majority of messages that I have to read are negative, often abusive and frequently personally offensive. C’est la vie.
But that really wasn’t the case following the broadcast that Radio 4 headlined: Fake News, Strong Views, Yorkshire and Me. Here are two examples:
From a Mr D. Watkins: “I rarely - read, never - feel compelled to contact someone I've heard on the radio or TV, but your appearance on R4 today has had an effect. As someone who not only has become completely dejected with mainstream media, and online / social media, it was refreshing to hear that your publication still stands as a bastion for truth. I now find myself in a position where I disbelieve anything I read online, and seriously question everything else; as such trying to find a truthful voice that hasn't been subverted, or is trying to galvanise the rift in our country with binary and divisive arguments is becoming increasingly tough. I don't currently read The Yorkshire Post, but I think I will start as it appears to be a small beacon of hope in a pretty dark landscape.”
A correspondent I shall only refer to as Shirley emailed to say, simply: “Dear James. Listening to you being interviewed on BBC Radio 4's The Media Show just now has restored my faith in the media. Thank you. Kindly, Shirl."
There have been scores and scores of tweets fired my way, too. But this time they are overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. I must confess, I’ve found the last 24 hours uplifting and yet emotional in equal measure. And so I wanted to write this letter back to all of those people who have reinvigorated my conviction that our journalism is worth protecting to say … thank you.
If I may - and please feel free to stop reading here if you do not wish to indulge me as I appeal to those who share my belief that what we do is sacrosanct, and should therefore be treasured and nourished so that it can flourish - I want to lift the bonnet for you in the hope you’ll feel compelled to join us on our journey.
Two hundred and sixty six years ago The Yorkshire Post - the then Leeds Intelligencer - was founded on a publisher’s promise that had at its core, to use political parlance de rigueur, ‘levelling up.’
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.
Just eight years after the Battle of Culloden - British Government against Jacobite rebels - and during the reign of King Geroge II, these were the sentiments of visionary Griffith Wright the Elder who understood that a force for good, for the all-round betterment of the people it served, was necessary in this part of the country. The North of England needed a voice. The Yorkshire Post was born.
It is genuinely remarkable that The Yorkshire Post has prevailed for over a quarter of a millennium: recording the reigns of ten monarchs and 74 Prime Ministers, yet here we are in 2020 with local and regional newspapers closing frequently; communities left without proper public interest journalism; individuals rearing up against click-bait content (I won’t call it journalism) and fake news. We are in a moment where we can determine what happens next, but it needs those of us who care to act.
So, I guess, what I’m proposing is a deal: we will do our best to maintain the exacting editorial standards that has seen this newspaper receive national and international acclaim in recent weeks, and double down on our commitment to quality and our campaigning intensity. You can make that pledge easier to fulfil if you feel you can come with us. Once again, thank you.
Editor, The Yorkshire Post
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