Making a difference is the theme for Local Newspaper Week 2014.
The aim this year has been to highlight how campaigning journalism by local newspapers, such as the Harrow Observer, makes a real difference to the lives of ordinary people in local communities, and how local newspapers’ use of Twitter and other digital and social media platforms is helping to amplify these campaigns and mobilise readers.
The Observer highlighted the #SaveBroadfields campaign, which influenced the council’s planning committee to refuse an application for a caravan site in Headstone Lane, Harrow, after 4,200 people signed their petition.
Harrow Community Radio presenter Georgia Weston, who organised the campaign, said: “When we were working on the Save Broadfields campaign, the Observer featured us on the front page and it gave us a real boost.
“I had people saying to me when I was going around collecting petition signatures that they were following the story in the paper, which was a real encouragement.
“But also, speaking as a volunteer in Harrow, I know how much charities in the borough appreciate things like the ‘Five of the Best’ pages, which highlight what they are doing and invite people to come along. It is really valued by them.”
The paper has also worked to highlight the campaign of the borough's new police chief Simon Ovens.
Harrow borough commander, Chief Superintendent Simon Ovens, said: “The key responsibility for us is keeping the people of Harrow safe and I feel it’s important to work alongside our local papers.
“They are an integral part of the community and play a huge part in helping us communicate key messages to the public.”
Martin Verden, chairman of the The West House and Heath Robinson Museum Trust, is one of the many campaigners across the borough who has worked tirelessly as volunteers to improve his community.
He has championed the West House project, working with the paper to raise the profile of a once-dilapidated building which now stands as a beautiful home of cherished art by William Heath Robinson, giving the work a wonderful and deserved home.
He said: "In the 1990's West House, in Pinner Memorial Park, sat there as a sad derelict building just waiting to be demolished.
"Thanks to the enthusiasm of a group from the Pinner Association, a plan was developed to restore this building which had been bought by Pinner residents back in 1948 to be used as a War Memorial.
"Fundraising began in 2000 and thanks to the support of the Harrow and Pinner Observer, which carried many a feature over the weeks and years, a total of £1.5M was raised, over half of which amazingly came yet again from local residents. Harrow Council also made a generous contribution."
Jane Galbraith, of Roxborough Road, Harrow, was one of the many neighbours concerned about proposals by Harrow Council to leave park gates unlocked overnight in a cost-cutting measure, which was later overturned.
She said: “We are very grateful to the Harrow Observer in helping us share that concern.
“We are still pushing for a lift at Harrow on the Hill station, which now seems to be coming, and we are delighted with the coverage these issues have been given over the years.”
Local and regional newspapers – in print, online and on mobile – are reaching bigger audiences than ever before, demonstrating that local news and information continues to be extremely highly valued.
Jonathan Edwards, who won the triple jump gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games and now works as a commentator for BBC Sport and Channel 4, is supporting Local Newspaper Week.
He said: “Local newspapers are vital to the communities they serve because of the work they do to highlight important causes and issues.
“By giving people who might not otherwise be heard a powerful voice, local
papers can bring about real, positive change for individuals and organisations who badly need help but have nowhere else to turn.
“In the age of social media in which anyone can be a publisher, local newspapers’ role as a source of trusted and accurate information has become even more vital.
“These are just some of the reasons why I’m supporting Local Newspaper Week and the Making a Difference campaign this year.”
Local Newspaper Week runs from May 12 to 16.