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Reporter mourns death of local journalism

31 March 2010

An blog post, The Death of (local) Journalism. An introduction, by an anonymous Northcliffe reporter has underlined the need for urgent action to save the tradition of professional newsgathering in Britain and Ireland.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said:

"This cry of anguish from a Northcliffe reporter represents the canary down the mine of local newsgathering.
"If politicians, proprietors and community leaders continue to ignore the warning signs of the death of local journalism, then our society will be the poorer."

The scale of the crisis for journalism is further underlined by the special conference organised by Press Gazette and Kingston University journalism department on 14 May to consider new thinking in local media. NUJ members can attend the conference for half price.

The NUJ has called for an economic stimulus plan to reinvigorate local journalism with action aimed at encouraging a variety of voices, across all platforms, a greater plurality, maximised through a combination of different ownership models – commercial, public, mutual, employee, co-operative, for profit and not for profit.

The reporter behind the obituary for local journalism warns:

"Eventually only the biggest cities in the country will have a local paper. The rest will have no one to chart local history, to cover the sort of stories which may not make it near a national but are still extremely important to the average person. The situation won't be much rosier for those who survive.
"Picture two or three reporters, struggling to even rewrite a press release because they have to take the pictures, write the stories, edit them and then lay the copy into the same box they laid the story on the same page last week.
"A victory for churnalism, if ever there was one. A 'triumph' that isn't some prediction of the distant future, but a very real situation for a lot of reporters."

Jeremy Dear said:

"That scenario is not scare-mongering. It is happening now, as the NUJ demonstrates through disputes to protect standards of journalism. Local and national democracy is suffering – councils, courts and public bodies are no longer being properly scrutinised.
"Sixty four per cent of editors believe they are not scrutinising local councils adequately. Eighty per cent of judges believe courts are not subject to adequate scrutiny. Journalists are increasingly stuck in offices rewriting press releases – relying ever more on corporate or celebrity PR.
"Political action is needed at both national and European level to save, build and sustain newsgathering in Britain. Politicians must find the will to create the structures to enable democracy to flourish."

Tags: , northcliffe, newspapers, blogs, local newspapers, regional newspapers, churnalism, democracy, cuts, redundancies, quality journalism