Papers may be evil, but better the devil you know

Kelner's View

Share

There was a very small earthquake in the world of newspapers
yesterday and certainly not many died as a result.

Two daily papers in towns in Australia were closed down in what has been reported as the first systematic closure of paid-for titles Down Under. To which I can hear your reaction: why on earth should we care? True, set against the more pressing issues we all face today – from job insecurity to global warming – it doesn't really register on our personal Richter Scale of concerns. And while we in the industry may, in some small part, mourn the passing of the Coffs Coast Advocate and the Tweed Daily News, I am not really advocating (if you'll forgive the pun) that you should spend too much time worrying about the shortfall in information that's about to hit the citizens of New South Wales.

However, this story is relevant as it has important parallels with what is happening much closer to home. The demise of the local paper in Britain is something we should all take seriously. There is no central register of closures, but titles such as the Belper Bugle, the Spalding Target, the Abergele Visitor and the Westmorland Messenger have been among the dozens to have disappeared in the past few years and a respected media analyst told a committee of MPs that up to half of the UK's local papers could close by 2014. The loss of a local paper may not have the day-to-day impact on a community of, say, the closure of a butcher's shop or a hardware store, but the gap it leaves behind is a very serious one.

The need for printed media may be waning, replaced in part by the many other, freely available sources of information. But the need for independent news is as great as ever and the desire to hold local politicians to account and businesses to scrutiny, is arguably more intense in this age of supposedly open government and commercial transparency.

Up and down the country, there are a few public-spirited individuals who are doing their bit, through websites, blogs, newsletters and the like, to make up this democratic deficit. In many areas, however, there is a great big vacuum where reporting on local councils used to be, hence the poor turn-out in regional elections. In the worst of all worlds, this shortfall is taken up by the council itself with the sort of publication that would give Pravda a run for its money in terms of objective reporting.

I live in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea and part of my council tax goes to the publication of a free "newspaper" called Royal Borough, which is little more than council propaganda. Cutbacks are referred to as "shared services", and stories tell of the council's "good planning" and of schools delivering "a first-class education".

One thing is for sure, from Coffs Coast to Kensington: journalism may have a bad reputation at the moment, but we'll miss it if it's not there.

React Now

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

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker