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

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, 5 July 2015  

George Osborne says benefits should be capped at £20,000 to meet average earnings – but working families take home £31,500

Ellie Mae O'Hagan
The BBC has agreed to fund the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s  

Osborne’s assault on the BBC is doing Murdoch’s dirty work

James Cusick James Cusick
Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high