OPINION: A reminder about the power of the press

Bob Macfie came to visit me last week. It was no mean feat for a 79-year-old who had to sit for four hours on a bus from Maryborough to Brisbane, then negotiate his way across the city.

All to discuss why his letters to the editor weren't appearing in the Fraser Coast Chronicle as often as he would like.

He came armed with copies of his letters, and a well-thumbed edition of that day's paper.

Bob cares about his town. He loves it. He wants to stay in his home, his castle. But he's worried rising council rates will force him out.

Hence his close scrutiny of council spending. He's a watchdog.

And he gave this editor-in-chief a great reminder of the power of the press. His local paper is, you see, his best chance of knowing what's going on, of forcing change, of letting council-types know they are constantly on notice.

As Bob pointed out, who fills that role better?

I think he left for home happy - I did shout him his taxi back to the Roma St bus station.

He knows there is no letter blacklist. His local editor has since contacted him and made sure she will tell him every time she receives a letter, so he can be confident they're being received.

Bob now knows a couple of tips he has for stories are being investigated. He does know, after all, more about the town than most of our reporters - he's been there most of his life.

He rang me at 6.30am on Tuesday to check on progress.

I know that if the stories don't appear when he thinks they should have, he'll probably jump the bus again.

We don't like disappointing people like Bob. They're why we do this job. That's the only reason I hope I avoid a second visit - we'll have delivered for another reader.

*Bryce Johns is the editorial director of Australian Regional Media. Bryce.johns@apn.com.au



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