Councils v local newspapers?

A few weeks ago, Roy Greenslade picked up on a growing opposition to Council-run free newspapers.

As he notes, the opposition comes both from smaller political parties locally, and from commercial rivals that are being edged out – as they see it.

Elsewhere, we are seeing growing demands for a journalistic ‘bail-out’ – and not just from bug-eyed Marxist fanatics either. Certainly, a lot of the clearly drawn ethical lines that have protected the near-monopolies of some local newspapers are being challenged from many quarters.

On the one hand, a strong local democracy requires a powerful independent journalistic voice, and if the Council does anything to damage this ecology, then it would be difficult to defend.

However, I think that there is an opportunity here. The National Union of Journalists are firmly of the view that some local newspapers are cutting back on journalists – not because they can’t afford them, but because their current business model allows them to make sufficient advertising revenues without much investment in original content. Continue reading


Can journalism save democracy?

One of the founding questions behind this blog is this:

Is the decline in local journalism damaging local democracy?

Well, the consistently good Polis blog managed by Charlie Beckett is addressing it with some energy here. Charlie worked at ITN, C4 News, LWT and the BBC. The post linked to here is a guest post by George Brock.

It’s a good general answer. For me, the big question is the local one. If democracy’s salvation is only viable at a nation-state level, will this make work on local democratic renewal all-but pointless?

Does the idea of ‘impartial journalism’ deserve challenging?

The BBCs Newsnight anchorman

Jeremy Paxman - The BBC's Newsnight anchorman

I’d like to look at how the requirement that is placed upon public broadcasters to be impartial impacts upon the quality of democracy in the UK. It’s a complex question, and I’d like to explore it over a few posts.

‘Impartial’ can mean many things. The most obvious expression of it is in the guidelines that ensure that correspondents are not imposing their own views on a story, and are instead attempting to assemble the facts – only the facts – for the viewers to review and draw their conclusions. The contrast between a fairly activist newspaper such as the UK’s Daily Mail (or perhaps, even better, Fox News in the US) and the BBC illustrates this very well.

Continue reading

Is the decline in local journalism damaging local democracy?

Here’s quite an old link I stumbled across while googling something else. It doesn’t do to only link to very new posts, does it?

“I don’t believe the intention is to destabilise democracy but that is the effect in many communities where the coverage of local politics has been downgraded by a loss of experienced staff with a real knowledge of the places where they live and work.

It is too easy to say the decline in local and regional coverage is an inevitable result of the move away from print to the web, social change, TV and radio. They are all true but the “bean counters,” as Dear described the press owners, have to take a lot of the blame. They are not investing in the quality of journalism we need either in print or online.

They are not the only ones to blame. I have said before that local government has been emasculated by centralising government, making local coverage of councils less relevant to the readers.”