The decline of “local news” in a digital age
For a number of years there has been a discussion about the decline of “local news” and the shift towards more centrally driven “digital content”. Many of us are a part of this change as we turn to facebook, twitter and online news rather than the daily newspaper. Yet I have always thought there was a niche for the weekly local newspaper (like the Merthyr Express) to carry local news, views and opinions. This would often include columns by elected representatives as it was one way for us to keep in touch with constituents. I know from experience that people have contacted me as a result of something I wrote in the monthly column.
Further change is now coming and Media Wales, who publish the Merthyr Express, tell me that no monthly columns will now appear in their valleys papers. (the newspaper is continuing, just a change in content). Some of you may welcome this, but for me I am a little sad that, whoever is the elected representative, can’t report to their voters in a local paper.
But perhaps that is an old fashioned view of the world and all I need to do is record more videos, to improve their quality and to embrace the digital age even more. Perhaps there is a gap in the market that other local publications will fill, but this shift in content also reflects a shift in advertising as companies buy digital rather than hard print advertising as well.
Perhaps the most damaging part for democracy is the loss of local investigative journalism. There are many good journalists who learnt their trade working on local papers, researching local council and court stories. How the local paper reported the local news was important. Not so much anymore, as what matters to the owners is which digital story people click on to generate more advertising revenue. That can of course be a ‘local’ digital story which means that as politicians we also need to think about how we present our news.