Local Newspapers

The West Sussex County Times has been a trusted source of local news since 1869.  I read it every week and I am always impressed by its reflection of the strong communities that we have here in the South Downs.

The County Times provides a home to lively local debate but also promotes so many of the good and positive things that go on in our towns and villages.  It's truly a local people's paper.

Local newspapers like this one have a vital role to play in our country.  They are read by almost 70 per cent of the adult population and have a cumulative readership of some 33 million readers per month.  A recent Ofcom survey found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that local papers were far and away the most trusted news source in the UK.

Papers like the County Times are of vital importance to our democracy.  They help to hold locally elected bodies and representatives to account and they give a voice to local people.

But they also uplift us with their reporting of community events, activities by schools and local sport.

I've been honoured to write an MP's letter for the South Downs edition of the County Times every week since July 2005, the year that I was elected.  In fact I haven't missed a week since.  I've written my letter in cars, on planes and in foreign countries - even once from St Richard's Hospital!

So it seems rather fitting that I'm writing this on the train from Bournemouth, where I've been at the Police Federation Conference, on my way back to Westminster.

There are lots of ways in which we can receive our news these days, and new media such as twitter and news websites are presenting a huge challenge to traditional local papers.

But there's no substitute for a quality local paper that's really engaged with the local community.  The West Sussex County Times is a shining example of its kind.  I hope that in its new form the paper will continue to have the support of its loyal and enthusiastic readers who value its local news coverage so much.

Christopher N Howarth