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Cash plea to government to back hyperlocal websites

A campaign group is calling on the government to plough in cash to support local news websites.

The Carnegie UK Trust – which has worked to boost journalism since the 1940s – has this year backed five grass roots operations to the tune of £50,000.

The Brixton Blog, Cybermoor, Port Talbot Magnet, WHALE Arts, and Your Harlow each received £10,000 from the Trust to develop a local news initiative.

Now the trust says local news websites should also benefit from a share of the £250 million of public funding support that is made available to local UK news organisations each year.

Douglas White, acting head of policy at Carnegie UK Trust, said: “There are more than 400 local news websites across the UK. These sites produce thousands of stories every week and play a vital role in sustaining local democracy and connecting communities.

“However, there is currently no media-neutral, large-scale fund available to support organisations that run independent, responsible local news websites with small pots of funding. We believe that this is a gap which should be addressed.

“The five local news organisations we have been working with have made extremely good progress with their individual projects, generating a significant volume of news content, bringing community members together, and creating new employment and volunteering opportunities in their local area.

“However, they have also faced a range of challenges which have demonstrated the importance of external support being available.

“We know that the traditional business model for local news is becoming increasingly unviable, with £400 million forecast to be lost from the UK newspaper market by the end of 2014.

“We therefore need to be creative and find new ways of encouraging and supporting vital local news outlets in whatever form they take. Local news websites are a vital part of this mix and the sector needs more support so that it can flourish and grow”.

William Perrin, founder of Talk About Local, said: “The Carnegie projects represent a good cross section of local grass roots online news. They demonstrate that a small amount of money goes a long way and that well-judged philanthropic interventions can create or bolster independent grass roots news.

“In our work with community news sites across the country we have long been puzzled why grant makers back few online projects and Neighbourhood News shows the potential waiting to be unlocked.”


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  • May 6, 2014 at 8:46 am

    I’m all for supporting start-ups like this if they can fill in gaps left by the shrinking newspaper industry. However, I’d like to know whether the sites which are supported are vetted in any way for journalistic standards and integrity.

    I know of one ‘hyperlocal news website’ which is run by a complete amateur with no training, no understanding of media law etc. He usually simply uploads press releases which, though dull, is not too risky. The problems arise when he starts trying to be a journalist – he has libeled several large organisations but has gone unpunished, and when he has attended court cases and inquests the reports he gives are seriously alarming. However, he has applied for grant funding for his site in the past.

    Will The Carnegie UK Trust be able to weed out applications like this and support only the professional operations?

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  • May 6, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Charles – maybe said amateur will improve and fill the gaps given time and funding and a bit of breathing space. Mate of mine runs a local site in Yorkshire. Never picked up a camera before 2009 – now a first-class tog. Never wrote anything proper until about 4 years ago – now, a decent writer. From nothing he’s created a great brand that fills a gap in the community, and much more. Enthusiasm is as important as experience, in my view.

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  • May 6, 2014 at 9:58 am

    RE: comment from Charles above – it would be interesting if say statutory notice payments or similar could be withheld from local papers if such standards were not met as well.

    Level playing field and all that 😉

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