THIS year we have seen unprecedented times in our county as the coronavirus halted our day-to-day lives and we were forced to stay in our homes to save lives and protect the NHS.

In our role as journalists, we have brought you stories on your lockdown fundraising efforts, the clap for carers and stories on how some have fought the virus.

We have also given you up-to-date figures of the number of cases in our area and information about the lockdowns being eased - and more recently being put back in place.

Sometimes our role has been to seek clarity amid confusion from the authorities, and toxic misinformation about coronavirus spread by social media.

Newsquest Media Group CEO Henry Faure Walker said: “It’s a role we take very seriously, and our journalists are better equipped than anyone else to do the job.

“And we know that our journalism is making a difference, as audiences for trusted news and information have soared during the crisis.

“Independent research shows that the public place great value on news and information from sources they can trust during the pandemic.

“Providing the public with trusted and accurate information is at the heart of what we do.”

This week marks Journalism Matters Week which celebrates the importance of journalism in our society and Her Majesty the Queen has sent her message to journalists across the UK.

HM Queen said: “On the occasion of Journalism Matters week 2020, I am pleased to send my best wishes to the members of the News Media Association.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has once again demonstrated what an important public service the established news media provides, both nationally and regionally.

“As our world has changed dramatically, having trusted, reliable sources of information, particularly at a time when there are so many sources competing for our attention, is vital.

“The efforts of the news media to support communities throughout the United Kingdom during the pandemic has been invaluable – whether through fundraising, encouraging volunteering, or providing a lifeline to the elderly and vulnerable to the outside world.

“As you reflect on your achievements this year, and the challenges you have faced, I send my warm good wishes to you all for a most successful and memorable week.”

Henry added that local and national news media have been a fundamental part of the country’s response to coronavirus and that it will continue to be so.

He went on to say: “Advertising revenues, the lifeblood of independent journalism, have been hammered by the economic downturn leaving us with less money to invest in the journalism we all want to read. At the local level, many news brands are in a perilous position.

“We now urgently need Government to intervene with a series of targeted initiatives to help sustain local independent journalism in this country.”