The Prince of Wales’s message is as follows:

I could not be more pleased to be launching the annual Prince’s Trust Local Reporting Awards.

This is the fourth year in which we have organised these awards, with the aim of encouraging young reporters to write about young people in their communities who have either overcome difficult circumstances or helped others to do so.

In other words, these awards are aimed at what regional newspapers do best: celebrating local examples of courage, selflessness and community partnership involving young people.

At a time when the younger generation seems to be on the receiving end of a certain amount of criticism in the press and elsewhere, I think it is right that we find ways to highlight the very positive contribution which many young people make to the life of this country.

With a bit of assistance from my Prince’s Trust, I have seen endless examples of young people who have shown enormous fortitude over-coming hurdles that would defeat people twice their age, or who have given freely of their time to improve the lives of those worse off than themselves.

Often, to my delight, their achievements and successes are publicised by regional newspapers, where I hope their stories inspire others.

These awards are a yearly tribute, both to the young people who battle against adversity to achieve so much and to the local newspapers who take notice of them.

When I met last year’s winners, I was enormously impressed by the quality of the journalists and by the projects about which they wrote, each of which was remarkable and of vital importance to local communities.

Giving young people opportunities which they would not otherwise have is what my Prince’s Trust tries to do.

Through our many programmes aimed at 14-30 year olds, we aim to instil confidence and teach new skills so that young people from any background can fulfil their potential.

It does not matter if they are unemployed or employed, leaving the care system or wanting to move away from an environment of crime, or have a desire to make music or a good business idea that no-one else will back — The Trust is there to make a difference.

Since it was founded in 1976, The Prince’s Trust has helped some half a million young people on their way to a brighter future. I am enormously proud of each and every one of them and it gives me particular pleasure that their successes have often been recognised by local papers across the country, providing much-needed encouragement and fostering a sense of community.

I do hope that many young journalists will enter this year’s competition and I can only wish them all the very best of good fortune.

l Entries for the 2003 awards will be run in regional newspapers next week, during Local Newspaper Week.

Message from Prime Minster Tony Blair:

We live in an age of international travel, business and communications which, even a generation ago, would have been virtually impossible to imagine.

And yet despite our much broader horizons, our attachment to our local town and neighbourhood remains extraordinarily strong.

I’m told that over half of us still live within a 30-minute journey of our birthplace. And surveys suggest that every important element of a person’s life — where they work, shop, study, and enjoy themselves — remain largely within a few miles of home.

I believe, too, that the importance of community has got stronger not weaker in recent years.

There is a renewed pride in local achievements and successes and a stronger need to be involved in the life of your neighbourhood.

I think this helps explain the renaissance of local newspapers in this country. The best of our local papers — and there are many, many examples covering from our biggest cities to our most rural areas — play a vital role in reflecting and building the unique character and values of the community they serve.

This growing sense of community drives a growing thirst for local news and information and strengthens the role of Britain’s 1,300 regional and local newspapers.

Our regional press, of course, remains the backbone of this country’s media with 40 million people reading their local paper every week.

All politicians recognise the importance of local news-papers to them and their communities. They know local papers are more trusted than any other media because you are much closer to your readers who hold you to account for what you publish.

Campaigning and effective local papers also help us to do our jobs better, ensuring we don’t lose sight of the issues that matter. They help, too, hold us to account for what we do and what we don’t.

It’s part of the reason why healthy local papers are so important both to a healthy democract and vibrant communities.

And it’s why I’m delighted again to give my support and congratulations to all local papers and their readers during Local Newspaper Week.

Picture shows Prince Charles garlanded by Gurkha wives on a recent visit to Aldershot.