The widespread demand for local journalism remains undiminished

All around the country, community websites have sprung up, providing local news, covering local politics and engaging local people in the affairs of their area

Share
Related Topics

I spent a highly entertaining evening this week in the company of John Stapleton, the veteran TV presenter and journalist. Stapleton, like me, comes from the Manchester area and we both support the same football team. Ostensibly, we were at a dinner to discuss football matters, in particular how the balance of power has swung from red to blue in Manchester, but inevitably we ended up talking about journalism.

For two old farts like us, these conversations inevitably end up taking the form of recollections to illustrate how things were much better in our day. John deeply regrets the decline of local papers, and the subsequent harm this does to our democracy. As a cub reporter in Oldham, he used to cover every council committee meeting, and now many local papers don't even report from meetings of the full council. The local paper was a focal point of a town back then, and district reporters played a significant role in the life of the community.

Print journalism was vibrant in a way that it is scarcely possible to believe today, and John told me that, after leaving school, he applied to 33 papers in the area for a job as a trainee. That's right - 33! There were 33 papers in the vicinity that all had an appeal for an ambitious young journalist. But our discussion was more than a lament for times long gone. I pointed out to John that while local papers are finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet in the modern media environment, the need for local journalism remains undiminished, and people's thirst to find out what's happening in the next street is something that will never die.

Curiosity is as much part of the human impulse as breathing, and will not be quelled by short-term economic reality. All around the country, community websites have sprung up, providing local news, covering local politics and engaging local people in the affairs of their area. Many of them are alive only because of charitable donations and through the hard work of public spirited individuals. But it is only a matter of time before some of these initiatives work out a way to make themselves financially sustainable, whether it be by subscription, or through advertising revenue, or by an as-yet-unknown model.

Everyone from Rupert Murdoch down (or up, depending on your viewpoint) hasn't cracked this particular nut, but one thing the Internet age has proved is that there is a market for niche information, like highly specialised financial reports, or news targeted at obscure interest groups. And what could be more niche than the parish pump aspect of local papers: the results of a regatta, a campaign to build a new pedestrian crossing, a row in the council chamber over rubbish collection.

A local journalist knows his or her patch. Sometimes too intimately. John Stapleton told me that he was once at a planning committee meeting and one of the items on the agenda was the proposed demolition of a row of houses. One of his colleagues on the press benches stood up and remonstrated with the councillors: “You can't do that,” she said, “my auntie Edith lives there!”

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job ? This is a new post...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The EU must take more responsibility for the migrants risking their lives to reach Italy

Benjamin Ward
The view from Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh  

Scottish independence: Why I can't wait to leave London and live in a free, independent Scotland

Yannis Baboulias
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week