What is journalism for? It’s a question I’ve had asked of me plenty of times since I returned to Sussex a little more than a year ago.

In Northern Ireland, where I had been for the previous six years, journalists perform an important function in what is still a precarious post-conflict society.

Most of the guns have been put away but sectarianism is still rife.

Government is at best functional and based on power-sharing between unionists and nationalists.

It is then not like any other country within the UK. Journalists have an important job in holding authority to account, tackling vested interests and speaking up for the man and woman in the street.

But in leafy Sussex is this really quite so important? Aren’t we doing pretty well and is there really that much to question, to uncover, to campaign for?

My answer is an emphatic yes. Since returning to England after almost 10 years in Scotland and Belfast I have to say I have found much local journalism in regions every bit as important, economically and culturally, to be in a pretty poor state.

The industry is going through huge transformation at present but I’m not really talking about these seismic changes, I’m talking about a state of mind.

For there is much that seems supine about some journalism at present.

Of course this is a generalisation, for there are pockets where brilliant work is still being done.

But somewhere along the way some of us seem to have forgotten what our primary role is. That is to obtain information and pass it on to you our readers, to tell you things you didn’t know. News is often something that someone else didn’t want you to read. Do we still have this as our mantra?

Of course newspapers like this one must champion individuals of merit, cheerlead good works and support institutions when they do their best to improve the quality of our lives. We are proud of where we live and should not be ashamed to say so.

That is a vital part of the mix. But it cannot be all we do. Many organisations are pretty good at doing that for themselves anyway.

No, a good journalist must also expose wrongdoing, question our leaders, examine policy, put the powerful on the spot, make a nuisance of themselves.

Simply speaking, “man does job” is not news. “Man steals from till while doing job” is.

It is not healthy for any journalist to have too cosy a relationship with the leaders in our community, its institutions, the movers and shakers if you like.

Respectful yes. Give credit of course. But simply become a vehicle for unchallenged views as some media outlets seem to be today? No.

Readers can get the press releases online from source anyway so what need of the middle man ie the media?

Journalists are outsiders. The safeguards that govern democracy demands it be thus. Show me an editor who wines and dines regularly with the powerful, or with whom they are on constant speed dial and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t really understand the job.

Journalists, post Leveson Inquiry, are not exactly clutched to the nation’s bosom at present. But their role in society is worthy of debate.

Forgive me for sounding pompous about my own trade but if journalism is to survive the communications revolution we are all living through it must be clear-eyed about its purpose.

If it is not it will have no right to thrive and at local level, where we all live after all, the democratic deficit will be real.

The Argus:

Take a look at the wonderful picture of the opening of Kings Road, Brighton, in 1910 that features on our Life spread in the centre of the newspaper today.

It is a fantastic snapshot of life back then. The classic cars and the city residents dressed up in their finest. Bear in mind this was taken in the height of summer. Think of the discipline needed to wear those heavy layers and the magnificent hats. It will certainly contrast with the scene at the same location this summer.

It reminds me of a black and white picture I have of both sets of grandparents sitting on deckchairs on the beach at Broadstairs just after the war. Although it is sweltering both men have full suit, cardigan, tie and brogues on and the women have dresses that do not dare reveal an ankle.

Looking at some of the sights on our beaches this summer it will be hard to avoid wishing those days were back.