There’s never been more ways to access the news. But newspapers – accountable, properly researched journalism, paid for by the cover price and the adverts opposite the story – are under immense pressure.
Last week the Cairncross Review into the future of the press painted a vivid picture of the challenges facing high-quality journalism in the UK
Most people who read news now do so online, including 91% of 18 to 24 year olds. Money made through advertising has also shifted that way, mostly into the hands of Google and Facebook. A quarter of all local newspapers closed in the past decade and the number of journalists dropped by six thousand.
The Cairncross Review makes clear that one type of news we cannot do without is public interest journalism. And that is exactly what this paper, as well as hundreds like it across the UK, delivers on a [weekly/daily] basis. Journalism is unique because its decline wouldn’t just have financial implications for the companies involved, but would have serious democratic costs too. Research has shown that people in areas with no local daily paper are less engaged with local elections, with less trust in local institutions.
The Review proposes how to put our media on a stronger and more sustainable footing. One of the recommendations is for a doubling of the journalists funded through the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
This excellent £8 million a year scheme funds 150 reporters embedded within regional and local papers. Around 850 local media titles are now signed up. I recently met some of their reporters who so far have produced 50,000 stories between them, all which otherwise wouldn’t have been heard. They’re holding local power to account and shining a light on the important issues in local communities.
We mustn’t find in ten years’ time that trustworthy news sources have disappeared with our democracy damaged as a result. So we will carefully consider the Review’s recommendations, looking at ways to preserve and nurture quality local reporting and to support the transition of the industry from print to digital. We’ve already announced that we will conduct a review on how online advertising is regulated in the UK.
I believe wholeheartedly that journalism should be accessible to as many people as possible and that the press industry can overcome its challenges. But everyone needs to play their part in ensuring the press has a sustainable future. And that includes local people supporting their local paper too.