The Future of Local News

 

This week I am looking at a parliament report from the House of Commons into the future of the regional and local media. The report takes a look into what is affecting the local media, why it is the way it is, if it has a future and whether it is under threat by the growth of the internet and technology. After reading this report, I have come to the conclusion that if the local and regional media is suffering and under threat then it is simply due to a lack of resources and innovation when it comes to making local news interesting.

The 2009 government report discusses the functions of the local and regional media and describes them as this:

– Scrutinises and holds to account local authorities and institutions

– Informs people of news and events in their local community

– Forms part of the local identity of an area. 

Now, to me these are good things for the local media to do. So why are they suffering?

The report notes that they have faced a number of challenges from the recession to structural changes to the internet and technology. The first two challenges are completely understandable as most businesses have suffered at the hands of our economic crisis and to an extent I do understand that the popularity of the internet will have hindered the local media’s circulation. However, I believe that it is so important for the local media to get on board with the new technologies and the internet and really use it to their advantage.

Take a look at a couple of websites for local newspapers in South London for example:

Do these websites look enticing to you? Are they interesting? Are they very different from one another? Would you want to visit them everyday to get your local news? I’m guessing that the answer to the majority of those questions is no. These websites for local newspapers are so boring and plain that they surely can’t expect people to want to access them. The 2009 government report even concluded that the local media needs to be innovative with their websites and use of technology in order to get out of this slump that they’re in and they suggested that the IFNC (Independently financed news consortia) should offer a skills and resource base in order to help local newspapers make the vital transition to online and print publication.

It’s not that people don’t value the local and regional media as the report showed that 90% of UK adults consume local media with 3/4 of those reading a local newspaper weekly but only a minute 1/5 accessing their local newspapers websites. I’m sure that for a lot of people the web is more convenient, it’s free and they can access it from their bed in their pyjamas so why aren’t they using it for their local news? I think it’s because of the lack of focus on these websites, the lack of care and perhaps a lack of staff and also knowledge.

On a positive note however, the 2009 government report highlighted the fact that people do value the local and regional media with the Press Association saying:

it’s a trusted source of public service information and accountability for local communities.

And the Department for Culture, Media and Sport stating:

Government recognises the importance to our democracy of local news, as a source of independent, local information produced to high journalistic standards, and news plurality. We believe that wide availability of news at all levels, national, regional and local, is at the core of public service content. Research carried out as part of Ofcom’s public service broadcasting (PSB) review showed very clearly that people trust and value the provision and choice in news services in this country, and they trust and value local and regional news in particular.

The local and regional media is obviously still very important, it just needs a little bit of help in keeping up with the digital world.

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