On the week that my novel The Breaking of Liam Glasscomes out – a crime satire about the role of the press – here’s a very topical and thoughtful piece from Emily Bell in the Guardian asking essentially if a stronger local press could have prevented the Grenfell Tower fire.Jon Snow of Channel 4 confronted by angry residents who ask what he did to prevent the Grenfell Tower fire

Or, as angry local residents asked Jon Snow of Channel 4 News, where was the press when the fire safety concerns were first raised?

The question is an excellent one. We deride, ignore and forget our newspapers at our peril. Local newspapers and local politics get coverage only when something goes tragically wrong, as happened here.

Who writes about the life around us?

Remarkably few books touch on local newspapers or indeed local politics – whether fiction or non-fiction. Indeed relatively few books deal with national newspapers. And those that do almost all go for the sexier role of foreign correspondent.

A letter from Grenfell Tower residents outlining their fears in August 2014

A letter from Grenfell Tower residents outlining their fears that the block was a firetrap in August 2014

Much more fun to write about drinking gin and tonic in the expat clubs of Dubai or travelling into the Andes to cover Peruvian drug gangs, than to sit in the council chamber listening to debates about fire-resistant cladding.

Or indeed reporting the fears of local residents who wrote warning letters and fought to be listened to. And were never heard.

But local coverage is the basis of democracy.

It’s no coincidence that the Lib-Dems are basing their fight to regain seats at Westminster by building support in local elections. Local is where power starts. Or should do.

Who was supposed to report on fears and prevent Grenfell Tower?

But there were effectively no local papers any more in Kensington and Chelsea. As Emily Bell reports, in 2014 Trinity Mirror merged three West London papers into one that is supposed to cover the ground of all three defunct locals.

While the only free sheet is published, it seems, by a PR company and carries no local reporting.

With no strong local professional news coverage, it became easy for the council and Grenfell Tower’s owners to ignore the constantly repeated warnings of its residents.

Headlines from papers around the world cover the Grenfell Tower fireIt was once thought that social media would replace newspapers. Twitter, Facebook, etc, would do the same job of naming and shaming. But they are different. Anarchic and confused, social media is just too easily overlooked.

Of course, now that the tragedy has taken place, the world’s press can’t keep away. Too little – as ever – too late.

When I started writing Liam Glass, I wanted to show how a thriving local and national press is crucial to the survival of a democratic country.

Now, sadly, we can see how the lack of it can so easily cost lives.

Read Emily Bell’s article here