Guest blog by Helen Nugent, Editor of Northern Soul
Is it just me, or is there a shortage of first-rate writing about the North of England? And, if there is a dearth of quality articles about this part of the world, whose fault is it?
In an effort to address at least part of this puzzle, I have come together with a number of other professional journalists, bloggers and writers to create a website that celebrates all things northern. I call it a webzine but it could just as easily be called the post-blog blog: a sophisticated group-written and edited website that publishes a variety of stories.
Northern Soul was born out of a desire to read well-written reviews, previews and features about where we live, as well as a thirst to see images that do the North's urban and rural landscapes justice. After less than two months online, it seems that there are plenty of people out there with the same ambitions.
|Helen Nugent: ink in her veins|
What all the writers have in common is a passion for the north of England and a fantastic way with words. Whereas in the past they might have written solely for local and national papers and regional magazines, today they have turned to the web. And as the writers move to a new medium, so do the readers.
A few short years ago the Guardian had four writers based in the North. Today there is just one, on her own, attempting to cover everything north of the Watford Gap. By mid-July the Times will no longer have a northern correspondent: its long-serving reporter is a victim of the recent night of the long knives at the paper of record. For the past few months, the Daily Telegraph has been short of a northern reporter, with little sign of a replacement.
And I'm just talking about Manchester-based journalists here. Pity Newcastle, Carlisle and York.
I love newspapers. I worked for the Times for ten years and I've freelanced for pretty much all of the nationals. I still get a paper delivered at the weekend; the thrill of picking it up off of the doormat and dirtying my hands on the typeface will never leave me. But I'm in a minority. And even I, with print running through my veins, find increasingly little of interest for a Northern-based subscriber.
Is it because southern newspaper bosses think that we northerners are provincial oiks with scant regard for culture, news and comment? Why do we have to wait for a terrible tragedy (the murder of Middleton solider Lee Rigby, the trial of Dale Cregan) to read about what's happening in our back yard? Is it simply that in a time of cost-cutting and belt-tightening that northern coverage is the most disposable of roles?
I don't know what the real reason is (although I could hazard a guess). But I'm angry about it nonetheless. And I'm not the only one. Perhaps those frustrated with their traditional sources of information will turn to local papers and their websites for news? While some are shadows of their former selves (yet more victims of cutbacks and staff atrophy), there are some cracking regionals out there. The Rossendale Free Press, for example, combines a hard-hitting news agenda with a slew of events in the area. It puts some of its larger rivals to shame.
Northern Soul has no plans to turn itself into a news website: there are plenty already which serve local communities perfectly well. To be frank, it's about time there was somewhere to read positive prose showcasing all that is great about the places and people up here.
As a start-up with many giving their time for free, Northern Soul will be hard pushed to recapture the glory days of broad cultural analysis, incisive discussion and damn fine writing about the north of England. But we're going to give it a bloody good go.
If you have memories of life in the 'other Fleet Street' or views about whether the media are too London oriented, please use the comment box for your anecdotes or opinions. We'd also love to see pictures. If you have a story to tell but would prefer not to comment here, please email me at email@example.com