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Local Journalism and Local Media

Making the local news — notes #1

Franklin, Bob (ed) (2006) Local Journalism and Local Media: Making the local news. Routledge (link).


Declining number of local papers

The decline is in relation to both:

  • Readership
  • Circulation

Causes include the Consolidation of Local Paper Ownership:

  • centralising production
  • separates journalists from readers

In a pursuit of minimising production costs, the following takes place:

  • increased reliance on news agencies
  • PR sources
    • Local government
    • Central Government
    • Local interest groups

Increased competition from other sources such as:

  • local radio
  • regional TV
  • microlocal news services such as BBC news services in regional newsrooms. (Aside: This might be the reason why LDRs go to papers now?)

New Digital Technologies

Advanced technologies mean the rise of

  • citizen journalism
  • loss of advertising to other online sources

Cost cutting has also meant

  • loss of buildings
  • no printing press
  • working from home (WFH) (leading to a loss of team solidarity and social capital?)

Barbie Zelizer (2004, Taking Journalism Seriously) writes about the parallel universe of talking about the local media theoretically in academia, and journalism practice.

In terms of Business Criteria, local newspapers are a success. Their profit rates are as high as 35%.

As tools of democracy however, they are a failure.

What they should be doing is the following:

  • offering independent and critical commentary on local issues;
  • Making local elites accountable;
  • Providing a forum for local views on community concerns; and,
  • ‘Holding the ring’ in debates of significant issues.

There is, however, an inherent tension between newspapers as businesses as opposed to an institution of local democracy (Franklin & Murphy, 1998).

Chapter 16 looks at the relationship between local government PR, written by Shirley Harrison. The current tensions in Bristol make this chapter particularly interesting. The final chapter looks at FOI and the local media; written by Heather Brooke. (Again, of particular interest in Bristol.)

Changes in the local and regional press have been evident in the last few years.

In the 1970s, the literature on local media shows a stable world.

Local newspapers were locally owned, locally produced, employed local people as journalists, reported local concerns and were read by local people.

References for this stability include the following:

  • Cox, H and Morgan D. (1974) City Politics and the Press, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Franklin B. and Murphy, D. (1998) Making the Local News; Local Journalism in Context, London Routledge.
  • Jackson, I. (1971) The Provincial Press, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Murphy, D. (1974) The Silent Watchdog. London: Constable. [About local journalists’ and newspapers’ roles in sustaining local power relations]

I managed to find the three books published in the 70s for around £5 each second-hand.

  • The local press now is no longer owned locally;
  • The offices are not likely to be central or local;
  • Decisions are made remotely;
  • Paper production not local;
  • Journalists are less likely to be local;
  • There’s an increasing reliance on imported agency copy;
  • Declining sales of local papers means that fewer people read locally;
  • Less likely to report local stories and issues;
  • Shift away from seeing local papers as central to the local political life of communities and a vital ingredient in local democracy, and understanding that local papers are a business.
bird with wings in the form of a book


Published by Joanna

A collection of fleeting thoughts that tend to focus around Bristol, food, movies, music and photography.

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