The Crucial Blog
A Brave New News World?
IT may have slipped by largely unnoticed but last week MPs found time to debate a long-term trend that has been gathering momentum and deserves all of our attention - the death by a thousand cuts of the regional press.
While it is heartening that the House of Commons heard a special debate on the subject, I can't help thinking this is woefully too little too late. MPs were warned not long ago by a respected Media Analyst that up to half of the UK's local papers might well be closed by 2014. Last week's debate was called for by Louise Mensch, Tory MP for Corby worried by the decision of a large publisher to turn some of its well know dailies into weeklies on her turf.
She called for the local press to be given tax advantages and it's hard to see why a lifeline of some kind couldn't be thrown to an industry struggling to survive. If the Government can spend millions on subsudies for many other areas of public life - all those Olympian high jinks spring to mind - then why not help save an industry which has been the lynchpin of many local communities for generations?
Call me old-fashioned but I am lucky enough to remember the day when local reporters were closely connected to the communities they served. They were the ones who found the news that mattered on their patch. Who will be there in the future to scrutinise and hold to account the actions of councillors and MPs if not the local paper?
Watching the demise of regional papers with long and proud traditions is worrying for everyone - readers and writers alike. Just who will employ today's students of journalism who in past times would have cut their teeth and gained invaluable experience of their trade on the local rag?
Seems they will have to find new publications to write for and fortunately while there are bright young entrepreneurs out there, there is still hope for the printed word.
Look to the likes of publisher Pictogram Press, about to launch a new local paper 21st century style. Newsprint editions aimed at young south coast readers, will be delivered to distribution points by bike. Backed by online editions, promoted through social media and with impeccable green printing credentials, the paper will take advantage of everything the 21st century has to offer but is firmly embedded in the ideals of a good old-fashioned printed read. Are we heading for a brave new style local news world?
Watch that front page.