The importance of local journalism

The importance of local journalism

Local journalism can often be swept aside in the industry but in recent months it has become apparent how important it is to the community – and to journalism itself.

Local journalism – the living force of any community is somewhat of an unmissable step in a journalism career and its importance has finally been recognised during the pandemic. Fantastic Covid coverage has been seen up and down the country – informing locals about the current situation. Professor Rasmus Kleis Nielsen – Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism edited a book called ‘Local Journalism – The Decline of Newspapers and the Rise of Digital Media’. In it says that it has “been taken almost for granted”. It is “on its knees” according to one Guardian article – a worrying phrase for such an important aspect of our industry.

Local journalism is multifaceted – different layers of lighthearted pieces to crime statistics in the area, latest health updates to coverage of local events. It offers important journalism which many local readers appreciate. 

I did a week’s worth of experience at a local newspaper in my university town in the first year of my degree. The Maidstone Messenger in Kent was my base for that time and I was offered an opportunity to go to an inquest and to a crown court. As you can imagine, I grabbed this opportunity with both hands. I loved the experience I gained, the pieces I wrote, and the people I met. Before this (admittedly short) week I had no real interest in local journalism nor had I considered it. I had a firm gaze on the big names in the industry. When stepping into that newsroom, I felt welcome. It was small and cosy, making for easy conversation between reporters. Making friends was easy because we all had a passion for the same thing – journalism. Most importantly, it felt like a community whereas national newsrooms often span across multiple floors and the chances of knowing all of your co-workers is less likely. And it has not improved since remote working was made the norm due to the pandemic.

Furthermore, the work of local newsrooms can often be buried beneath the work nationals do as they both aim to inform. 

Plum Consulting published a report about local journalism and found: “Local journalism has a key role to play in civil society. The decline of the local newspaper industry, and resulting negative impacts on journalism, reduce scrutiny of democratic functions.” This highlights the significance of local journalism for a community. An IPSO blog commented on the report and said: “Local newspapers were invaluable during the Coronavirus outbreak as a reliable source of up-to-date, trusted information.” 

Such reports and blogs inform certain people about the importance of local journalism but more visibility is needed for this kind of journalism. Recently Substack announced it will spend $1 million to support a new group of local news writers on the platform, showing the importance of this part of the industry.

Last year, Bureau Local decided to honour local journalism by setting up the #LoveLocalNews campaign. The hashtag brims with love for local news and showcases hard-hitting stories. It even displays stories that started out as local ones and that were swiftly picked up by nationals.

Local journalism has even made big name shows sit up and take note of its importance – including ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ who did this segment on the matter.

Local journalism matters immensely – not just to the communities it serves but to journalism itself. It should not be left behind so perhaps walk into a newsagents and pick up the local paper to support its work.