Ken Bennett, a former executive with the Sunday Mirror and Express newspapers and founder of the Saddleworth Independent, has criticised news organisations for sacking reporters, and being overly concerned with “reinventing the wheel” in regional media.
Speaking at the Society of Editors regional conference today, Bennett said: "Sacking the reporters is not a strategy. You’ve got to make better use of your teams. Our organisations are still top down, rather than bottom up."
Bennett argued that sacking reporters has resulted in newspapers becoming disconnected with local communities: "You have to get into the hearts and minds, and from a standing start they have to believe in you."
In reference to his successes with the Saddleworth Independent, Bennett championed a "back to basics" approach. He claimed the Saddleworth Independent has never failed to make a profit and needed no launch marketing.
"You don't have to do a weekly, you just have to do a bloody good paper; just go back to what we were all taught, and get on with it."
Bennett also dismissed the idea that young people wouldn't read newspapers: "People want to read about themselves: the most popular section of the paper are the nibs – they are the goss."
Bennett has now sold on Saddleworth Independent but remains editor of the title. He is also seeking to replicate the success elsewhere.
He told the conference of editors that he believes this is not restricted to smaller rural communities, but could be done in cities too. He also proposed partnering with universities to provide jobs for graduates in creating new local papers, asserting that "people are yearning for local papers".