A COUPLE of weeks ago it was my 30th anniversary in journalism.

The day, I think it was a Wednesday, came and went. No fizz, balloons or celebratory dinner. It wasn’t until the day after that I realised it was three whole decades since I arrived at the offices of a weekly newspaper in the Spen Valley. Finally, I’d landed a job as a reporter, after writing to dozens of newspapers across the country (no email back then - just Basildon Bond and a load of stamps), and I felt on top of the world. There was a bottle of fizz and a family barbecue to celebrate.

Thirty years on, I’ve worked for several newspapers and have seen sweeping changes. It was far from a digital industry when I started out. Heck, I even remember being trained to use email in the late 90s. I was running a district office in a rural Midlands patch, when sending stories to the central newsroom was accompanied by a cry of “Modem!” as a warning not to use the phone at the same time and block up the line.

In a digital age, the way we gather and report news has changed drastically - but what remains at the heart of local newspapers is the vital role they play in communities, and in a democratic society. This is highlighted this week in Journalism Matters Week. By reporting on issues that affect readers, and campaigning on their behalf, news media can make a real difference to people’s lives and bring about change for the better.

Journalism matters - more than ever in a pandemic. Over the six months or so since the world turned upside-down, the need for accurate information from trusted sources has been particularly vital. The media is under fire for the way Covid news is presented, but with so much fake news and flaky hearsay flying about, relying on the professionals has to be a more sensible, and safer, option when it comes to keeping informed in an ever-changing world.

And for those who don’t get their news digitally, local newspapers keep them connected with communities and the wider world.

A free press is essential to hold those in power to account. Back in May our Local Democracy Reporter, Chris Young, was one of the journalists asking questions at a Downing Street briefing and raised the issue of student nurses stepping up to work in the pandemic, despite having to take out loans and effectively paying to work on the NHS front line.

Since lockdown began my T&A colleagues have worked like Trojans to deliver news that matters in this district. As well as constant updates on Covid, including daily online blogs updating and explaining data, the T&A has continued to report on a range of other news, keeping readers informed, connected and entertained. We’ve highlighted issues affecting local businesses, schools, theatres and charities and have celebrated community champions and NHS heroes helping others in the pandemic. We’ve also put the focus on you, the readers, to submit your own stories and photographs - whether it’s memories of restaurants or photos of babies born in lockdown or pets that have lifted spirits.

A lazy criticism often hurled at local papers is that they’re “full of bad news” You only have to scroll through our website or read the paper to know that’s not the case. There is light and shade - from breaking news on murder trials to look-back pictures of the day One Direction came to HMV and stopped traffic. It’s all news to someone - and you’ll find it here first.