SO how should a heavy dose of negative publicity be handled? It's a question I'm often asked.

Well, let''s look at the example of Channel 4 sending their cameras into one of the more deprived parts of Stockton to film that nasty, insidious series called Benefits Street.

We all know what they're after: cheap telly which paints a picture of it being grim up north, starring people who'll do almost anything for 15 minutes of fame. It is expected to hit our screens next March.

The local authority might have wallowed in self-pity and moaned and groaned about the coverage given to Benefits Street by the local papers, and how it was damaging the perception of the area.

But I suggest that Stockton Borough Council chose the right course by accepting the reality that Benefits Street wasn't going to go away and, like it or not, Channel 4's presence was going to be newsworthy to the local press.

Galvanised by members of the local community responding to the negativity by sticking up for Stockton, the council set about coming up with a campaign to shine a positive spotlight on the area. The editors of the local news organisations –The Northern Echo, the Evening Gazette and BBC Tees – were included in the planning and the result was launched on Friday. The "Positively Stockton-on-Tees" campaign is shortened to "Psst" – as in "Psst, past it on..."

It has been chosen in full knowledge that "Psst" will be inevitably linked by some drinking too much but the thinking is that it's part of its quirky appeal. Although I may well be proved wrong, I think it will work.

Of course, it helps that the local media will benefit to a small extent commercially from the marketing of the campaign but, that aside, I would be naturally inclined to support it because countering the stereotyping of Benefits Street is the right thing to do.

In my view, Stockton Borough Council deserves credit for tackling a problem head-on, being creative and engaging the local media, rather than railing against it.

Psst...pass it on.

AN INTERESTING experiment began last week which may turn out to be the first steps in a partnership between the regional press and the BBC.

The Northern Echo is among a number of North-East titles supplying news and sport articles to form part of the local news-feed for our region on the BBC's website. The benefits to us are two-fold: our brands are showcased on the BBC's website and links from the selected stories drive readers back to our own websites. In other words, when people click on the story on the BBC site, they end up at The Northern Echo's site.

Instead of the publicly-funded BBC being a source of unfair competition in the local news market, this will hopefully lay the foundations for a mutually beneficial way of working together.

FINALLY, Saturday night's Help For Heroes Winter Ball, at Tennants, in Leyburn, was a memorable occasion which raised a lot of money for an important charity. The exact figure will be reported once it's been calculated.

It was a privilege to be asked to be Master of Ceremonies, although I confess to being a bag of nerves waiting for the grand auction, featuring Mackenzie Thorpe's wonderful work of art which graced the cover of our recent Remembrance Sunday special edition.

Having asked Mackenzie to help us with the front cover, and marvelled at his willingness to help in the most stunning way, I was desperate to see "Remembrance" sell for a fitting sum.

Auctioneer Rodney Tennant finally brought the hammer down at ???? and that money will go towards our "£100,000 For 100 Years" campaign, marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in aid of the Phoenix House rehabilitation centre at Catterick Garrison.