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Local press ‘decline’ aiding rise of far-right, says chief reporter

Martin Shipton 1A chief reporter has claimed that a lack of well-resourced local newspapers is playing a “significant part” in the rise of the far-right.

Martin Shipton, of the Western Mail, has warned changes in the industry have created a “vacuum” filled by social media material which pushes “often racist” solutions to problems.

He has shared his concerns in a piece for the National Union of Journalists as part of its Local News Matters week, writing in his capacity as Reach NUJ group chapel chair and a member of the union’s Welsh executive council.

Martin, pictured, described the “changing culture of newsrooms” as “seriously worrying” in the piece.

He wrote: “News values have changed. A story is not judged on its own merits, but on how many page views it will generate.

“A piece about Wetherspoon’s new menu (much the same as the old menu) is rated highly because of the number of page views obtained from the large numbers of people anywhere who for reasons best known to themselves have an insatiable appetite for trivia relating to the pub chain.

“Reporters are under pressure to get as many page views as they can. Inevitably this frames the kind of pieces they will write. Faced with a requirement to constantly increase their contribution to company targets, they will inevitably change their behaviour and – too often – make news out of trivia and trivialise the news.

“But while people are, to one degree or another, consuming such material, they are becoming alienated from their local communities and the decisions that are being made in their name.

“A vacuum is created, and it’s filled by unwholesome material from social media that pushes views that offer simplistic, and often racist, solutions to complex problems.

“Of course there are other factors involved in the rising influence of far-right narratives, but I believe the decline of well-resourced local papers rooted in their communities has played a significant part.”

Reach plc, which publishes the Mail, declined to comment when approached by HTFP.


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  • March 13, 2020 at 11:43 am

    “A story is not judged on its own merits, but on how many page views it will generate“

    “…Reporters are under pressure to get as many page views as they can”

    And therein lies the problem to many of the wider issues affecting the main players in the regional press today.While they chase online popularity and clicks, new independent local publishers are doing the basics and providing the grass roots community news people want to read whilst growing audiences local businesses are keen to pay to connect with.
    In my view the sharp decline in copy sales and advertising revenues can be traced back to when a multitude of other online news sources emerged and having ignored it for too long and in order to compete and catch up editors took the decision to dumb down the quality of the content in order to hit the numbers, numbers which still haven’t been monetised to any satisfactory level after almost two decades of trying and failing.

    A good piece Martin

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  • March 13, 2020 at 11:51 am

    I think its not so much about the decline of local newspapers leading to a rise in the ‘Far Right’, more like a complete lack of the ability to hold those in power of any persuasion to account – thinking here of local councils who are often a ‘law’ unto themselves.

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  • March 13, 2020 at 12:42 pm

    Totally agree @Annon and having chosen the click bait route they compromised their credibility and reputations as the ‘go to’ local news providers and instead are now known primarily for posting ICYMI reposts and quotes from Facebook accompanied by god awful Google Street View images which once reposted is no longer breaking news, couple this with poor quality irrelevant or promoted content passing itself off as news and it’s no wonder the papers and brands are no longer taken seriously and are subject to ridicule by a public who can recognise click bait when they see it and who aren’t as gullible as many editors think.
    Had those responsible for content stuck to what they were good at; providing the very best,well informed and well written local news, something their predecessors spent years building up,their competitors would not have got a look in and the media landscape we are familiar with today would look considerably different with reputations and credibility still in tact.

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