Save local news – it’s a national artery

Local newspaper sales in the UK fell by an average of 13.5% in the first half of 2014, year-on-year compared to last year. That is a tragedy for an industry and a service that has been the bedrock of how we communicate for well over a 100 years. Local and regional newspapers have been a flagship of our democracy.
And how does the industry react? What are publishers doing to protect our local media outlets? They are:
• Sacking trained reporters, sub-editors and editors
• Switching from print to, frankly, ill-designed and ennui-ridden web sites
• Shutting newspaper offices so the news in, say, Yorkshire, is edited by a sub in South Wales
• Riding roughshod over the legalities of making sure that news reporting is fair and not ‘manna from heaven’ for solicitors
Worst of all is the experiment in Lincolnshire where a well-respected local news sheet is now filled with material provided solely by residents.
Come off it publishers. That’s what social media, the digital revolution, is for: it isn’t a way to provide intelligent, thinking residents with a professional, considered, well-delivered and well-designed service. Newspaper web sites are dreadful – and that’s what it means to me: they fill me full of dread for the future.
So how important is news? It’s vital, it’s the foundation on which we build opinions and considered comment, it is at the core of what we hold dear as citizens of the UK.
If you have your car serviced do you take it to a garage stocked with people who know one end of a spanner from the other, even though they use the software on a computer for much of the work? You don’t? You leave it out on the street with the bonnet open and a bag of spanners next to it so that everyone passing can have a go?
Yes. I know news gathering and communicating is a business, but there is a place for local news, and advertising will be profitable. Maybe the problem is, yet again, greed. Shareholders demand excessive returns to the medium and long term detriment of the product and sales. That this is folly is amply demonstrated by an average drop in sales of13.5% in an industry that I hold close and dear.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *