As someone who lives and works in the North East and a PR consultant advising many of the organisations based here, I have a keen interest in how the region is reported. Often it’s by a journalist based outside of the area, which is never a problem if they are prepared to be open minded in their approach and not just recycle old and tedious stereotypes. Being an avid Guardian reader, when I spotted the Guardian article by Andy Beckett that compared the North East to Detroit, I assumed the title was just link bait and that it would be a balanced piece. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case. Having evidently decided to build the story around us being a ‘problem region’, it did just that, taking very little of the positive work ongoing here into account. There wasn’t much mention of anything good, for example the success of the recent Dynamo 14 conference which underlined that we have one of the most thriving tech scenes in the whole of the UK.
I have been involved with a multitude of enterprise, health and cultural campaigns and am very aware of the inequalities and challenges faced. As ever, the big issue remains funding, but that’s not unique to the North East. What we are not doing is resting on our laurels and we are not shutting up shop. To suggest that’s where we are potentially headed, for whatever reason, is plain irresponsible and more to the point, factually incorrect.
This is why I felt strongly enough to launch a petition to ask Guardian writer Andy Beckett back to the North East in order to educate him about everything we have to offer so he can (hopefully) write a new and more balanced article. The fact of the matter is that people in the region are sick and tired of this beautiful area - which offers excellent quality of life - being badged as the grim North.
Alone my voice won’t make much impact but if we all join together, perhaps the national journalists who like to peg us as ‘teetering on the brink’ might just have their misperceptions challenged and once and for all change their views.