Rob Williams: It's not always bad news when a local newspaper stops printing

 

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The inevitability of the closure of yet more local newspapers across Wales is no consolation for those who have already lost their jobs.

The latest newspapers to fall victim to print media cuts are the Neath and Port Talbot Guardians. Their owner, Media Wales, has decided to close them due to the "tough economic times". Good local reporting will always find an audience, whether it's online or in print. It is this that these newspapers no longer do. And it is this that makes them not only obsolete but also largely worthless.

The argument that plurality of media is central to the functioning of a democratic society is a cornerstone of media theory. But should it really be applied to defend some of the newspapers we see going under? The defence of plurality is often churned out despite the fact that the newspapers in question aren't any good. Too often in our local rags we see press releases re-written and fashioned into an imitation of news. There is too little actual journalism and too little writing that challenges those in local government.

However, the mantra of plurality has been repeated so often it is now used to defend the sort of newspapers we would be better off without. One such classic example of this type of journalism is about to bite the dust in my old hometown. The dire Wrexham Chronicle, a poorly subbed, badly designed, ugly little free-sheet, is now to close. Sad as it is for those journalists involved, it is categorically not a tragedy for the plurality of the local media.

The importance of plurality is that it gives readers a range of perspectives on social and political issues. It creates debate and holds those who are in power to account.

True plurality is plurality of opinion, and a variety of opinions is sadly not guaranteed by having a variety of local newspapers. Local newspapers have become so homogeneous you can rarely tell them apart. They cover similar sorts of events week in, week out and year after year. If we only value local newspapers for the contribution they make to the plurality of the media, we are surely missing the point, aren't we?

It is what they say that matters – not the fact that they are there.



Taken from the author's blog at independent.co.uk/mabiblogion. You can start your own Independent Minds blog at independent.co.uk/blogs

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