Dewsbury in struggle to improve battered image

The embattled Yorkshire town of Dewsbury is caught in a 'media Catch-22' that is preventing it from rebuilding its reputation, according to local leaders.

Crime scene: Crow Nest Park
Crime scene: Crow Nest Park

This week's news that an Asian youth was beaten to death in a Dewsbury park is the latest setback to a council-backed PR campaign.

Dewsbury is also still recovering from negative coverage triggered by the news that 7/7 bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan had been living in Dewsbury. More recently, the town was the scene of the much-publicised kidnapping of Shannon Matthews.

Dewsbury MP Shahid Malik has been a fixture on the broadcast circuit this week, defending the town's reputation on national TV news and regional programmes.

'He has a mandate to stick up for the town, and it's second nature to him now,' said Malik's comms officer Terry McKay. 'One of the first things he did as MP was defend Dewsbury's reputation after the 7/7 bombings.'

The chair of the Dewsbury Market Traders Association has attacked media coverage of the town, alleging that newspapers focus less on similar crimes in Bradford and London.

'The good news about Dewsbury doesn't sell papers,' said Trish Makepeace. 'The media concentrate on the negative, not the regeneration of the town or its convenient location for investment. It's a Catch-22.'

Graham Halliday, Dewsbury representative for inward investment body Yorkshire Forward, said any regeneration efforts must be aimed at improving the town's image. He added that a PR push masterminded by Kirklees Council is under way to increase positive coverage of the Dewsbury area.

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