Ask most local newspaper editors to identify the stories guaranteed to make their readers sit up and take notice and they will reel off quite a list.
Tragedy, murder, Town Hall incompetence and anything even remotely saucy are all likely to engage those who either buy papers like this one or visit their websites.
Another one to add to that list is the now perennial special report listing the food hygiene levels of local takeaways and restaurants. It might not sound like a sexy tale to rank alongside naughty vicars and deviant D-list celebrities but this story is the gift that keeps on giving for those poor devils who have the unenviable task of keeping the news treadmill running in the sleepiest of patches.
Having been one of those aforementioned poor devils for well over a decade, I grew to love the ‘iffy takeaway list’, as it became known in one particular newsroom I worked in.
A top score of five is what every self-respecting restaurateur or kebab shop owner aspires to and will proudly display the distinctive green sticker in their front window should they hit those heights.
Back when we first ran the list of shame - we always focused our coverage on the places with scores of zero or one - the response that we got from the general public, not to mention those business owners who had effectively been named and shamed, went beyond the feedback we received for most other stories that ran on our pages.
The reason for such fierce public interest is that, unless you have the delicate palate of a three-year-old or a stew and dumpling-loving great granny, we all love a takeaway. In England there is nothing to compel owners to display a hygiene rating and, let’s be honest, they aren’t going to if the score in question screams ‘vermin keeps our burger buns company’.
But the food-buying public doesn’t do itself any favours - sometimes we are so tired and hungry that we couldn’t care less how clean some kitchens are. Clearly more needs to be done to eradicate bad food from our high streets but, until it does happen, there will be plenty of rich pickings for local journalists.