The Slugger Awards 2008: Local newspaper of the year

The next category I’d like to introduce is the award for local newspaper of the year (i.e. those papers beyond the ‘big three’ dailies in Belfast). In running these awards, we’ve had a few comments about how parochial the whole thing seems, and we’re not apologising for that. If you believe in the effective extension of the franchise, it is hard not to see that poor-quality local government is not a major obstacle. And in an age in which the media are rapidly deserting local coverage, preferring to reach for the golden ring of 24-hour rolling news from global capitals, then we can reasonably expect the degree of scrutiny that is applied to local government to fall further.This is the unglamourous end of the media, yet in many ways, it is the most vital. In Northern Ireland, while the big political beasts have rowed away from a wilful stoking of communal tension, those problems are still very much in existence in some localities. We’ve already asked you to nominate the best local authorities in Northern Ireland and we’d ask you to bear this question in mind for that award.

But which local newspaper has made itself the candid – and often critical – friend of those who are seeking to make Northern Ireland a better place? Which paper is reporting bread-and-butter issues in a conversational way? Which one is offering even-handed commentary and good responsible reporting? Which one is catching politicians out when they duck the big questions? And which one is offering fair coverage when politicians do the right things?

We’re not looking for newpapers that offer fawning indulgence (or the lazy recycling of press releases) to politicians. But neither are we looking for newpapers that thrive on cheap ‘gotchas’ or personalised campaigns. Is there a local newspaper in Northern Ireland that is still taking local coverage seriously – despite the temptations to do otherwise? Let us know in the thread below.

Please note, we’re also going to do a local journalist of the year (and we’ll be judging this on whoever has run with the best story), so please confine nominations and suggestions to actual papers at this point? Usual Slugger Award rules here – negativity gets deleted on sight.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty