IN last week’s column, I wrote how the snow helped to see the city from a different perspective. This week, we’ve been offered another view from somewhat darker circumstances, this time from the world’s media descending to report on the attempted murder of Russian spy Sergei Skripal. It’s been fascinating, and somewhat depressing, to see how Salisbury has been depicted.

The result has been a succession of somewhat patronising pieces, painting the city with a seven dwarves list of small town clichés: quiet, quaint, sleepy, dormant, parochial, English and Doc in a hazmat suit. The picture is a sort of McMafia meets Midsomer Murders film set, in which we are all cast as unwitting extras.

I’m not here to blow smoke but, by contrast, the journalists of this particular parish have been exemplary. It’s very easy for the national media to look down on their regional rivals, but chapeau to the work of Joe Riddle, Rebecca Hudson and everyone else at the Journal. One of the few silver linings this week has been seeing the Journal sell out in so many places around the city. The importance of local journalism is often overlooked, but plays a vital role in the community and should never be taken for granted.

Back in 2016, the national media misread the outcome of the EU referendum. I remember going to London for work on the day the vote took place and you could see why: the capital was staunchly Remain, with barely a Leave poster in sight. The national mood, though, was somewhat different. ‘The past is another country’, LP Hartley once wrote: today, in many ways, the country is another country. Rather than learning the lessons of the referendum, that metropolitan worldview still holds: London is the place to be and the rest of us are so sleepy, we might as well still be in our pyjamas.

The difficulty for the media with the Skripal story is that these investigations take time: the Litvinenko case took years to unravel, which doesn’t mesh with the pressures of a 24-hour news cycle. Military trucks and people in protective gear might make for great TV footage, but doesn’t actually tell us much about what is going on.

Things may change, but I’ve been surprised how little the international media has actually unravelled so far. I’ve no particular insight to offer, but it seems self-evident that for whatever reason, the whole picture has not yet emerged. If this was a book I was writing, my editor would send it back with a list of the obvious plot holes.

The local media has stepped up to the plate. Now it’s time for the nationals to do the same.