Diary: Local press has a new Ray of sunshine

Every trade body needs a hero, so step forward Robert Ray, the marketing director at The Newspaper Society, who has gone to extreme lengths to help his industry titles shift a few more copies.

Not content with representing local news at conferences, extreme sports fanatic Ray, who enjoys everything from snowboarding to surfing and even has his own extreme sports clothing company, appeared in the local newspapers Tring Today and Berkhamsted Today under the headline: "Safety warning after canal plunge."

The story reports that Ray had skidded while out on a morning mountain bike ride near his Aldbury home and found himself "catapulted" into the Grand Union Canal. While he managed to avoid drowning (the water was only up to his waist), he did sustain a painful broken finger in the incident.

This might be a relatively minor entry in the Ray catalogue of extreme sports injuries (previous knocks have included fractured ribs and a broken arm) but it prompted him to warn local residents: "I was probably going a bit too quick so the message is to be more careful when you're cycling on the towpath." Wise words Robert, especially as he had to endure a lengthy operation at the local hospital to mend the mangled digit. And it was so insightful, in fact, that the story was subsequently picked up by the canal enthusiast title Narrowboat World.

However, not all readers were sympathetic to Ray's plight. Letters to the newspapers that followed the story accused the intrepid Ray of being irresponsible for riding on the towpath and putting walkers in danger.

Yet, all publicity is good publicity and, with news of the incident set to run and run, Ray could be single-handedly responsible for rescuing the local press industry in the home counties.