• Rachel Sharp

The free press is there to ruffle feathers


Editor Rachel Sharp (third from left) with some of the students and staff at the newspaper

I WOULD like to welcome you all to the first edition of The Hillingdon Herald. We are proud to present to you a new, local newspaper, produced monthly by the Journalism students and lecturers at Brunel University.

Before I became a lecturer in Journalism at Brunel, I was a group editor of several local London newspapers, and before that, I was the editor of the Hillingdon Times newspaper – sadly now no longer in print.

Over the many years I have been a journalist I have come to know and understand the borough almost better than the area in which I live, something which I believe very strongly is important for local journalism. My first reporting job when I was a cub reporter was also in Hillingdon, and so I have always held the area close to my heart.

I believe you have to be based in the area, understand the communities, the residents, the local issues. The area has to become “yours” so you care about the issues, and can champion them for your residents.

Brunel is already part of your Hillingdon community, we are the university for the area, our students live here, study here, work here.

They belong to societies, they vote in local elections, just like all residents. We are all one community, and what happens in our community is important to all of us.

We would like you to get in touch and tell us what matters to you, what you want us to cover, let us know what is going on in your area, and tell us about your events.

Print newspapers are sadly, due to changing times — i.e the internet and social media — slowly disappearing across the UK. So I have been buoyed by the steady stream of praise that has already come in (including from the Prime Minister and former Shadow Chancellor) for the fact that we are trying to turn the tide.

There is genuine excitement, particularly among the media community, that somebody is actually trying to launch something new in "old-fashioned" print. We trust we will not disappoint, but this is likely to be a real roller-coaster ride, and we hope the local community in Hillingdon will be there to have our backs.

One final word. Journalists aren’t always popular, the discussions around fake news have been so very loud this year, it makes my ears ring sometimes.

This newspaper aims to rise above that. Our job is to report the truth, hold the powerful to account, inform our community, and cover the good news, not just the bad.

We will almost certainly ruffle some feathers along the way, but that is, after all, the job of a free press.

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