Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A good old-fashioned exclusive

The Leicester Mercury has a big political exclusive today - Patricia Hewitt is to stand down at the next general election. It's an exclusive in the old-fashioned sense of the word. That is, it hasn't appeared anywhere else first, although I suspect that within a few minutes of the paper hitting the newsagents and the story appearing on our website, it will be everywhere - all over the Internet, tv, radio and, of course, the national papers (although they will have to wait until tomorrow).

I can't claim that this exclusive is the result of good old-fashioned investigative reporting. Well, not directly anyway. The truth is Ms Hewitt sent me an email over the weekend asking if she could come to see me yesterday as she had an 'announcement' to make which she thought should be done through the Leicester Mercury.

Given the clamour of doomsayers who have been writing the obituary of local newspapers over the past few years, why do people like Ms Hewitt turn to papers like the Leicester Mercury when they have something to say? Clearly the fact that 170,000 people read the Mercury every day plays a big part in that - we are still the best way to talk to the people of Leicester.

And, despite our occasional falling out with those who would rather that we didn't report what we see and hear, most people know that if they come to us we are going to report in a fair and considered manner. Ms Hewitt is not the only person to turn to us recently - it happens every day and it helps make the Mercury what it is. Our aim is to find unique content about Leicester and while much of that content comes from our reporters, much more comes from the people of Leicester themselves.

Our story on Ms Hewitt today reports the fact that she is to quit and gives a brief overview of her political career in the city, but has little in the way of reflection on what will happen next or reaction from anyone on what she has achieved. Why is that? Well, it's the nature of an exclusive. If we had started to ring people yesterday and ask about Ms Hewitt, her decision would have started to appear elsewhere last night and we would have lost the exclusive nature of our story.

Of course, today we will be looking back at her career in more detail and rounding up people's reaction to the news - I think it's fair to say that she hasn't always been the country's favourite politician! If you've got a view, why not add it in the comments to our article online or email it to me for the paper? As I said above, while our reporters will be doing their bit, the people of Leicester will add to the story in their own unique way.

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