In a report published recently, the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF) and NewsNow, the UK’s independent news discovery platform, say that communities in Bristol are demanding local news outlets be supported and saved from extinction and call on funders and policymakers for support.
In place of the current ‘top-down’ model, they call for a ‘bottom-up’ approach, where funding for local news is guided by local communities rather than distant shareholders or politicians.
The people of Bristol also want to see more on-the-ground reporting within local news, so that there can be a face-to-face relationship with the communities they are serving that leads to a deeper understanding and coverage of their needs.
These findings come from a workshop held on the 23 Nov 2022 at Trinity Arts in Bristol. Individuals from a variety of backgrounds, including business leaders, civil society organisations, funders and people with lived experience, came together to draft a ‘Local News Plan’ that sets out people’s views of local news at present, and their vision for the local news of the future.
Eliz Mizon, the local steward responsible for organising the Bristol workshop, had this to say:
“This project is a promising step forward in what has been a long running, worsening problem, and a genuinely new idea that could bring momentum to the movement to reinvigorate and sustain local journalism.”
Further workshops were held in Glasgow, Bangor, Manchester, Folkestone and Newry and findings have been collated as part of a national report: https://www.publicinterestnews.org.uk/full-report.
The report recommends:
- Local advertisers and government should allocate a proportion of their budget for outlets that align with the Local News Plans;
- Funding for local news should be managed by independent local foundations;
- More communities should develop Local News Plans to ensure local news represents their needs.
This approach is described by PINF and NewsNow as ‘media wealth building’, because it aims to maximise the value of local news to local communities.
PINF conceived the Local News Plans project in partnership with NewsNow, who also funded the project. The project was led by Sameer Padania, the international media consultant, and Jonathan Heawood, Executive Director of PINF, working with local stewards in each of the six locations.
Jonathan Heawood said:
“Most local newspapers in the UK are owned by three large corporations, which have received millions of pounds in handouts from the government, big tech and the BBC. Local communities aren’t happy with the quality of local news that they’re getting in return. If we want to build a sustainable future for local news, we need to give local people a voice.”
Sameer Padania added:
“We’ve seen the challenges facing local communities across the UK, but we’ve also seen how those same communities want local news to be part of the solution. High-quality local news reflects people’s pride in their area, supports their high streets and businesses, spotlights community initiatives and builds a sense of belonging. Local news isn’t just an add-on – it’s an essential part of every local community.”
Jana Bartlett, of NewsNow, commented:
“We’re delighted to have worked with PINF on bringing together communities to discuss how they can work out for themselves what they want from local news and how best to support local providers. At NewsNow, we believe that sustainably funded public interest journalism is vital for the health of local democracy.”
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