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People more interested in local than in international news, study finds

Julie FirmstoneLocal or regional stories are of more interest to people than other types of news, new research has found.

A joint study by the University of Derby and the University of Leeds has revealed more people are interested in what is going on in their locality than in international news, social issues, crime and health-related stories.

Of the 3,044 people surveyed for the research into public news literacy, commissioned by press watchdog Impress, 2,337 declared they were interested in news about their locality or region.

This compared with 2,225 who said international news interested them, 2,159 who had an interest in crime and police and 2,125 who found health and social care interesting.

The report also found people were less likely to think their local news has a hidden agenda compared to national news titles they use, but that they read, listen to or watch local and regional news sources less regularly than national ones.

The study also looked at trust in newer independent local newspapers and hyperlocal publications, finding 43pc of respondents trusted such titles to report on issues fairly, compared with 40pc who did not trust them to do so and 17pc who were undecided.

The report said: “In the case of newer independent local newspapers and hyperlocal publications, many of which publish largely online, trust is neck-and-neck with distrust.

“Seventeen percent of people don’t know whether to trust them or not. Earning the trust of sceptics could be the tipping point for the profession’s integrity in the coming years.”

The study further found that most of the public have both “low confidence and low knowledge” of how newsrooms operate.

It added: “Most of the public believe that decisions surrounding which stories to cover are made by editors based on what is important to individual organisations.

“Verified stories and the social importance of the story are ranked last in terms of what the public thinks goes into news reporting.

“The wants of readers are also seen as low priorities in the news production process compared to the views of owners and the political agendas of news organisations.”

Julie Firmstone, pictured, associate professor of media and communication at University of Leeds, said: “The report and the research demonstrate the importance of efforts to increase levels of news literacy among audiences, showing that when people feel knowledgeable about how news is regulated and how journalism works, they are more likely to trust the news it produces.”

John Steel, research professor of journalism at University of Derby, added: “This report, and the research underpinning it, emphasises the need for greater levels of transparency and knowledge of the news media amongst the UK public.”