Local News Matters Week
© red engine
4 January 2017
Local newspapers, websites and associated apps are read by 40 million people a week and they enjoy a high level of trust from their readers.
Local journalists are breaking important stories, many with a national significance, and they provide vital and entertaining local information as well as doing their utmost to ensure democratic scrutiny, accountability and encourage an active citizenship.
Local democracy depends on voters having sufficient information to make decisions. Local businesses depend on advertising, features and reviews for their livelihood. Local people depend on having a watchdog which is on their side.
Yet, the sector is in crisis.
According to the Press Gazette, there has been a net loss of almost 200 newspapers since 2005 and during this period the number of journalists has halved.
Numerous daily titles have gone to weekly publication and many weekly titles no longer have dedicated editorial teams. The NUJ has collated its own roll call of newspaper closures.
Mergers and take-overs have severely restricted reader choice, with four publishers accounting for almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of local newspaper titles across the UK (Trinity Mirror, Johnston Press, Newsquest and Tindle Newspapers).
Industry expert, Enders Analysis, reported that the media industry’s revenue in 2015 was approximately half its 2003/04 level.
Despite adapting to many changes, journalists have not seen their pay improve and are experiencing heavy workloads because they are expected to bring in stories, cover events, produce videos and podcasts and use social media while covering for colleagues who have lost their jobs.
A survey of News Media Association members found that the revenue of vast majority of media organisations (81 per cent) continues to come from print readership, with 12 per cent coming from digital.
However, the industry is closing its newspapers and pursuing digital-only strategies without a business model which will recoup print revenue.
The NUJ's Local News Matters campaign aims to reclaim a vital, vigorous press that is at the heart of the community it serves and is owned and operated in the public interest. The union has robustly fought to keep jobs, and members have gone on strike in protest against the loss of posts throughout the UK, such as action taken by our Newsquest members in south London.
We have supported journalists who are desperate to do a good job, but have to battle with cut-to-the-bone newsrooms and lack of investment.
This March we will launch a Local News Matters Week starting on Friday 24 March.
The event will feature a series of conferences and activities each day around the UK and its regions. Journalists from all parts of the local media – newspapers, online, start-ups, radio, TV, photographers and communications – will be involved in the campaign, along with politicians, community groups, sister unions and many others who know first-hand the vital role our local media plays.
Events are being planned for Westminster, the Welsh Assembly, and Scottish and Irish governments.
Things you can do to help now:
- Send us a 140-character message (the size of a Tweet) to say why you care about local news.
- Record a video message for the campaign – this could include talking about why you support the NUJ's local news matters campaign, or why you are proud to work in local news or why local journalism is important for our communities, society and democracy. Keep the message to less than three minutes please.
- Send us examples that show how news coverage in your area has been able to make a real difference – e.g. stories and photographs that helped to save your local library, hospital or swimming pool or an investigation that lifted the lid on corruption.
- Volunteer to organise local events or activities in your area – we can link you up with other NUJ members who want to plan together and campaign locally in March.
- Send any messages, videos, good examples, comments or feedback to our campaigns and communications department via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our campaign aims include:
- a short, sharp, national inquiry into the state of local news;
- local papers to become community assets to prevent newspaper titles closing overnight and to give potential new owners, including local co-operatives, the time to put together a bid for a paper;action to stem the job cuts and attack on quality journalism;
- research into new models for local journalism, levies, tax breaks and other measures to fund community media.
Read all the news on the Local News Matters campaign
Follow us on Twitter @NUJofficial
Monopolising local news. Is there an emerging local democratic deficit in the UK due
to the decline of local newspapers? Gordon Ramsay and Martin Moore, Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power, King's College, London. May 2016.