At a time when we are getting used to strange things happening, there is one event that sticks in my mind.
An otherwise quiet weekday in Harrogate was interrupted by the noise of a military helicopter landing on the Stray… not something we often see! All of us in the town centre heard the noise but only a few people got to watch the helicopter come into land. The Chinook was dropping off NHS bosses who were visiting the new Nightingale Hospital at the Convention Centre. Most people wouldn’t have known what was going on if it hadn’t been for good quality local journalism reporting a story of both local and national interest.
We all know that local reporting has come under huge pressure in the past decade or so. But we are lucky to have some strong local outlets: the Harrogate Advertiser, the Stray Ferret, the Harrogate Informer, Stray FM, and the local BBC reporters, who are all working hard to find stories and keep us up to date with what is happening in our area.
Local journalism is all about talking to people in the local community and finding out what’s going on. That ranges from holding local councils to account to reporting from the courts – as a barrister I know only too well the value of reporting on justice. We are lucky to have some dedicated journalists doing just that.
But over the last few days, we’ve learned that our much-loved local radio station is under threat. The Stray FM name will be lost as most of its output is switched to generic national content. As a regular listener, I know this will be a big blow to our local community.
Stray FM is really good at what it does — it’s not just about playing music. For many of us, Stray FM has been the first port of call for up to date local news, particularly when we are hit by snow or flooding and useful local tips on traffic and road closures. They are also excellent at the fun side of local life. They play a big part in important days like the Knaresborough Bed Race and turning on the Christmas lights, as well as all their help to promote smaller campaigns and fundraising by individuals and local charities.
The strength of local feeling has been very clear from the number of people who signed our petition to save Stray FM. Hundreds added their name within 24 hours. This isn’t a party-political issue; it’s about standing up for an important part of our community. If we don’t speak up on behalf of Stray FM, and other local journalists who find their positions under threat, we will live to regret losing a big asset that can’t easily be replaced.