In a world where we can get our news fix instantly on a social media feed or website or flip over to any 24-hour news channel, the local newspaper is something of an anachronism, clinging on by inky fingertips as circulation figures steadily decline.
With budgets slashed and fewer and fewer journalists on the job, those that remain do their best to turn around news stories with scant time to write them, let alone interview and research, and virtually no subeditors to proofread them either. These hard-pressed local newspapers often get a good bashing from their less than forgiving readers – especially online where it can be a bit of a wild west at the best of times.
But we at DNPR are huge fans of local newspapers, knowing them to be vital engines for a vibrant community and a resource we all rely upon far more than we imagine. So here is our multi-pronged defence of the local paper – five reasons why they’re important, why we should all get behind them, and why everyone will be poorer if they disappear!
1) Obvious maybe, but local news!
How often have you been stuck in a traffic jam and looked online at the local paper to see if there’s been an accident? Or read out about a brilliant local event you want to attend? Or kept up with decisions being made on your behalf by the local authority? If you want to know what’s going on you look to your local newspaper – be it online or in print they are still your best resource to know what’s happening in your area.
2) A channel for local businesses
Few people know the power of social media more than we do. And we’re experts in Google and help businesses take full advantage of its ability to target the most specific audiences. But we also know full well that our clients love it when their stories are picked up by the local paper. Why? Because it makes a difference! People still read and respect their local rag – and positive coverage here is impactful for local businesses who can raise their profiles and reach a local audience.
3) The news food chain.
While big newspapers and media outlets may have a smattering of ‘regional’ reporters, the journalists who are truly local and understand what’s happening on their patch belong to the local newspapers. Nine times out of ten if you spot a story about your area on the national news it will have been picked up out of your local paper. No local papers = far less national representation for your area, your business, and your local interests.
4) Holding those in power to account
Covering your local courts, following up incidents with the police, attending council meetings, keeping a tab on the actions and votes of your MPs – all of this and more is the work of your local newspaper journalists. Your local newspaper is your eyes and ears on the workings of the regional criminal justice system and local democracy and governance. If they’re not there to observe and record – who is??
5) A source of pride
Ah we can hear the keyboard warriors’ wisecracks now! But seriously, to have a local newspaper covering your town is more and more a rare privilege. As newspapers merge, close, or are subsumed by ever bigger regional news providers, if you have an actual newspaper office open in your town – with journalists covering your events, attending the meetings that matter to you, letting you know what going on and what’s coming up – you should count yourself very lucky. It helps put your town on the map and really is something to be proud of.
So don’t take for granted the local newspaper on the stand, roll your eyes at its online news pages, or scoff at the free paper through the door, be glad you have these things at all. Local journalism is a tough gig that gets tougher every year, so why not celebrate and support your local newspapers – we’ll all be sorry if they’re gone!