Leaders reflect on the Comet's 50th anniversary
- Credit: Archant
As part of the Comet's 50th anniversary celebrations this year, MPs and council leaders in our community have been explaining what the newspaper means to them and how it serves the area - from campaigning for improved health services to providing a platform for people's views and holding authorities to account.
Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Borough Council, said: "Congratulations to The Comet on your 50th anniversary.
"For 50 years you have told the stories of our place, kept us informed, campaigned for and with our community and held those who serve us to account. You have warmed our hearts, tugged our heartstrings and occasionally given us a public and safe way to express our anger. While we may not always agree with what appears on your pages, we know you always aim to be fair and balanced in your reporting, which earns the respect of all.
"Times have changed so much over the last 50 years, and so many local papers have not survived the digital era and the world of social media and instant news, but you have embraced that change and adapted to meet the needs of different styles and speed of delivering news. So we now look to your Twitter feed for instant news, as well as waiting for the paper copy for more of the analysis and features.
"Your reporters and editors have changed over the years, but they have all shared the common endeavour of getting close to our communities and, in doing so, being able to judge what will matter most to them. It is surely that diligence, flexibility and passion for our local communities that means you have survived where so many others have failed.
"As democrats, we should always seek to celebrate and support the independence and freedom of good journalism and a strong local press. What you do is so important to us all. Happy anniversary the Comet! Long may you continue to be such a vital part of our local life."
Elizabeth Dennis-Harburg, leader of North Hertfordshire District Council, said: "Having been a Hitchin resident for eight years and a councillor for five, I’ve always looked forward to the Comet dropping through my door and catching up on all the news in my community.
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"The Comet does a fantastic job at understanding what is important – celebrating, championing and campaigning, with a real understanding of the area it serves.
"It plays a vital role in raising awareness of important community issues, giving a voice and a platform for people and issues which might otherwise not be heard. A recent example of this being its #HitchinHatesWaste anti-littering campaign, whereby the Comet successfully brought the community together to tackle littering and organised litter picks to help keep Hitchin clean. Sadly, litter is still a big issue and I’d be delighted for the council to work in partnership again with the Comet to tackle this.
"In a fast-changing world, the Comet has adapted with the times, transforming their digital and social media content in order to reach new audiences.
"I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the services of former councillor, Alan Millard, who sadly passed away last year. He worked as a photographer at the Comet for many years, and even after his retirement he continued to share his striking pictures for free.
"I look forward to seeing how the Comet can support and guide the community over the coming years, out of these difficult times and into better ones."
Councillor Richard Roberts, leader of Hertfordshire County Council, said: “Local newspapers have long been at the heart of the communities they serve, sharing key local news and issues, celebrating the successes and achievements of residents, and allowing for public scrutiny of the issues that matter most.
“The Comet is no exception, having played an important role in the lives of residents of north Hertfordshire for five decades. To mark this milestone anniversary I would like to pay tribute to the dedicated journalism and reporting on key local issues which has no doubt helped to improve the lives of people in our towns and villages across the county.”
Cllr Richard Wenham, leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “Local newspapers like the Comet have a very important role to play in our communities, celebrating the good, highlighting the bad and holding authorities to account. The ability to access news and information is so easy with social media these days, yet never has the need to have reliable, well researched and trusted articles been so essential. Local news, crafted by those who live in the local area and who care passionately about what they do is very much valued.”
Sir Oliver Heald, MP for North East Hertfordshire, said: "The Comet has supported numerous campaigns during my time as MP, from successfully fighting against inappropriate development - including early campaigns against a clinical waste incinerator in Letchworth Green Belt, to backing tree-planting campaigns and improved sports facilities, such as new football changing rooms.
"Road safety campaigns have succeeded with your help, including the campaign for a Baldock by-pass and to tackle the problems on the A507.
"You have also made the case for our chalk streams, including the Ivel, and we now have an All Party Group at Westminster.
"The campaign for a satellite radiotherapy centre is still ongoing and you have supported this and other improvements to the Lister, such as the rebuilding programme and Macmillan Cancer Centre. You always back our hospice.
"The Comet has covered our ups and downs for 50 years, including our political history here, and I wish you a happy anniversary."
Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, said: "I am delighted to wish The Comet newspaper a happy 50th anniversary. It has been at the heart our community for all that time and I have been proud to work with it during my 11 years as the Member of Parliament for Stevenage. It is older than me, older than Stevenage Borough Council, and been reporting community stories - highlighting the wonderful voluntary and business successes - throughout the 50 years. Happy anniversary!"
Richard Fuller, MP for North East Bedfordshire, said: "I'd like to congratulate the Comet on reaching it's 50th anniversary and, in this 50th year, we know, more than we have perhaps at any time in the past, the importance of local news. Emerging, as we are, from this period of COVID and all of the pressures that it brought, what we also saw was the importance of local community spirit, and nothing resembles that better than the Comet. Happy 50th birthday!"