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Government urged to back hyperlocal news sites

Carnegie reportThe government has been urged to provide financial backing for community-run news websites after a report says they could “fill the gaps” left by the local newspaper closures.

The Carnegie UK Trust has published a report calling on the government to offer a package of support measures to help the UK’s emerging hyperlocal news sector to flourish and grow.

Among the suggestions in the report are allowing local authorities to spend some of their statutory advertising budgets through such sites.

The report, entitled ‘The Future’s Bright, the Future’s Local.’ also calls on the BBC and other local news organisations to build stronger relationships with hyperlocal news providers.

Douglas White, head of advocacy at the Carnegie UK Trust, said: “With four in ten adults in the UK now using online sources for local news, the traditional business model for delivering local news is under extreme pressure, and there are fewer journalists working in our communities even as we move towards greater devolution of power.

“However, despite digital hyperlocal news providers addressing news gaps and democratic deficits in many areas across the UK, their coverage across communities remains patchy. They are also not eligible for much of the public support currently available to UK local media.”

Over the last two years, the Trust has been working with five local news organisations across the UK as part of its ‘Neighbourhood News’ project.

Douglas added: “There are nearly 500 active hyperlocal news websites across the UK.

“They fulfil the traditional function of local news providers which governments, regulators and funders support; they just deliver it differently.

“There is an opportunity for governments and funders to open up current and new financial support programmes to develop local news which hold decision-makers to account and connect our communities.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

4 comments

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  • December 9, 2014 at 3:54 pm
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    How about a bit of government funding for hyperlocal papers still hanging in there and still delivering news the public wants and can trust?
    It would be criminal if any public money was used to establish services where traditional print continues the fight.

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  • December 9, 2014 at 6:22 pm
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    You’re spot on ‘Observer’ – if the gov’t wants to help fund local media, why not help fund local papers, rather than set up websites to compete against us?
    And what is this “public support currently available to UK local media” referred to in the piece?

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  • December 9, 2014 at 10:22 pm
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    Now let me see – when was the last time I bought a local or national paper? Our local free papers are a shadow of the former selves and take about five minutes to read when you’ve spotted the stories among all the ads. It’s much easier to read the news on the iPad while you are watching TV. It’s just a pity that local papers in particular are being starved of adequate editorial resources to make a real go of providing top quality content for print or online. It’s sad but true, just as downloads are replacing CDs, online will replace print in the next five years.

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  • December 10, 2014 at 4:39 pm
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    I don’t share your pessimism about the future of print Callmecynical. We can survive with focus and dedication to the medium.
    A number of publishers have been distracted by the lure of an online presence and it’s easy to see why but they have been, in my opinion, shortsighted.
    The most user-friendly format is a newspaper that can be flicked through to spot the nibs and which doesn’t require a power source.
    I agree that a poorly produced title is only good for lighting the fire but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
    We have some great local newspapers.
    Let’s keep them by not allowing public money to be used to make the job harder than it needs to be.

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