LOCAL Newspaper Week, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary, starts today, celebrating the vital role regional media plays in communities.

Here Oscar-winning actress, and former Hollyoaks star, Rachel Shenton reveals why papers are so important...

“I am a huge supporter of local newspapers because they do so much good for the communities they serve.

“Take, for example, my local paper The Sentinel which runs the annual Our Heroes Awards campaign honouring inspirational individuals and unsung heroes from across North Staffordshire and South Cheshire.

“Having attended for the past four years, I have seen first-hand the enormous boost these awards give to the local community.

“They shine a spotlight on those who go the extra mile to help other people, often with little or no reward for themselves.

“They inspire others to follow their example.

“And the awards enable all of us to get together for an evening and meet new people who we might not otherwise run into during the course of our daily lives.

“Making new connections between these inspirational people can result in really positive things happening in the community.

“I’ve given just one example of why I believe local newspapers are so important. But, of course, there are many more.

“Local journalism, trusted and accurate news information produced by local papers, is more important than ever before in the age of ‘fake news’ spread via social networks.

“We rely on trained local newspaper journalists to separate fact from fiction and get to the truth, even if powerful interests would rather it remained hushed up.

“In addition to holding the powerful to account, journalism has other important benefits such as promoting literacy.

“And the Making a Difference campaigns for this year’s Local Newspaper Week show exactly how local newspapers can bring about real positive change through powerful editorial campaigning.

“We must do everything we can to protect our local papers because they do so much good in our society which, sadly, we sometimes take for granted.

“So, during Local Newspaper Week, which this year is celebrating its 20th anniversary, I am urging all those reading this to stand up for their local paper.

“Local papers are the lifeblood of democracy in this country and we must do everything we can to ensure they not only survive, but flourish in the years to come.

“I am delighted to give my support to Local Newspaper Week this year and would like to wish all local papers and their readers the very best for the future.”