|Matt Adams editor, at his desk|
So Matt, how long have you been editor of the paper?
I joined the paper in April 2009 as the lucky 13th editor.
What does an editor do all week?
Mondays to Wednesdays I'm focused on production, putting together that week's paper and working out what stories and photos will go where. The remainder of the week I operate in more of an ambassadorial role, representing the paper in the community, meeting with contacts and working on long-term objectives.
How did you get into journalism?
When I arrived at university in 1990 I signed up with the student newspaper on the understanding that I would provide photographic cover at student union gigs. I got in for nothing and had a chance to snap leading groups up close and personal from the pit. But then something happened - I stumbled across what sounded like a good news story through chatting with people on my course, and the paper's news editor asked me to look into it as he had nobody free to do so.
That was it. I was bitten by the news bug. I loved the idea of being able to make a difference through my writing and before long was running for the position of editor in the union elections. That year was to prove invaluable when it came to being a journalist. I cut my teeth on structuring the content of a paper, worked with a small team on coming up with innovative new ideas and learned how to design a newspaper page.
At the time I left uni there was no obvious pathway into newspaper journalism - no internet, no way of finding out about training within the profession. Then my mum spotted a job ad in one of our local papers, a free title with the unassuming name of the Yellow Advertiser looking for someone to join their features team. I started off writing advertorials, puff pieces about bathrooms, kitchen fitters etc. It was boring work but it pushed me into creating solid prose after interviewing less than forthcoming tradesmen and I began honing my skills as a reporter. I did my training there and at the Yorkshire Post in Leeds.
What do you like about working in the Herts Ad?
I am driven by the desire to have a positive impact in a community. Newspapers wield immense power and it is amazing what a simple phone call to the council or a corporate organisation can do to solve a resident's long-running problems. I would argue that local journalism is the most important journalism in the world. We break stories that really make a difference to people's lives; we can help change local policy and we are the perfect platform for everyday heroes to get the recognition they deserve. I also enjoy the fact that you never know what's going to happen from one day to the next - and there are few jobs which offer that variety.
|The new premises. Cat swinging forbidden.|
The Herts Ad has recently shifted its location. Good move?
We've been in our current offices in the centre of St Albans since March 2012 and it's been a revelation. Before we were stuck on an industrial estate on the outskirts of the city and it would take 20 minutes to get into town and park. Now we are at the heart of everything that happens in St Albans and can react immediately to breaking news developments. We were first on the scene for a snatch-and-grab robbery last year, we have seen celebrities shopping nearby, and we are accessible to the people who count: our readers.
So in this fast internet age, is there really a future for local papers?
Regional newspapers are more relevant to modern day readers than they ever have been. People spend more than half their time within a five-mile radius of their home. They want to know about their own community and what's happening around them - they don't care so much about what's going on five or forty miles away.
I think the regional press is leading the way when it comes to setting the national news agenda. Many of the major stories reported in the national media came from regional news sources, and local papers will often lead the way in reporting these issues through their unchallenged connections within local communities.
Ultimately local newspapers act as independent watchdogs holding government and other powerful institutions accountable and enabling citizens to participate fully in our democracy. This is an essential function, much like roads, power and water, and without us the community would be that much poorer.
Anything else you want to say about the job?
The Herts Advertiser not only publishes two editions every week (Harpenden and St Albans) but also has to maintain a strong web presence and achieve all this with just a handful of reporters. We can't cover every single news story in the district, there simply isn't the time or resources to do this, and so we prioritise those items which are of the most relevance to the widest percentage of our readership. We're a business, and in this day and age we have to also rely on the support of our advertisers to boost our sales.
Time off? What do you like doing to wind down?
I'm a self-professed geek, and love to immerse myself in graphic novels, sci-fi and fantasy. My biggest obsession is Dr Who, but I also enjoy a wide variety of genre material. Musical tastes are very eclectic although I'd highlight Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Luke Haines, David Bowie, Tori Amos, the Indigo Girls and Aimee Mann as particular favourites. However, I think my favourite means of relaxing has to be spending time with my beautiful 15 month old daughter Anwen. She truly is the light of my life and every minute with her is a precious joy.
Matt, thanks for stopping by and giving us some insights into your job and your philosophy. The PINK SOFA has now licked its pencil so much that it is in acute danger of lead-poisoning and may requite medical attention.
Matt is on Twitter at @Matthertsad. Stories from the Herts Advertiser can also be accessed via @Hertsad or via http://www.hertsad.co.uk/home/e-edition. Matt is rushing back to his sumptuous (!) city centre office - but he will be dropping by later to respond to any comments ...