22 MAR 2018

Protecting our local press

Kent Messenger Column – 22-02-18

I don't know about you but I just can't compare an i-pad with a full sized newspaper in print. They offer a completely different experience and both are worthwhile in different ways.

Newsprint has a deeper role to play however, particularly regional and local publications. Papers like the Kent Messenger provide essential glue for our communities; campaigning for important local issues, holding local authorities to account, promoting local events and providing commerce with a unique advertising medium.

Furthermore, as the reach and impact of social media grows, there is a risk that the untrustworthy news sources which all too often accompany it will become ever more influential. Local newspapers enjoy a relatively high level of public trust and therefore play a crucial role in countering misleading digital output. Without them the opinions of tomorrow's decision makers might be built upon sand, and that will spell trouble for us all.

The Prime Minister was therefore right to identify, last month, that the closure of hundreds of local news publications was 'dangerous for democracy.' The issue is widespread and with 200 hundred local papers already having closed since 2005, such a serious erosion of an important wing of our democracy needs urgent attention.'

Accordingly the Government is setting up a review to determine what can be done to improve their sustainability. They have also pledged to scrap legislation that would require media outlets to cover the cost of libel legal fees, whether guilt was proven or not – a measure that would have driven more local papers out of business, as well as being an affront to our liberal democratic values.

The traditional model of local news publishing must change if it is to survive, and many are adopting innovative approaches through broadcast and other formats. As consumers of news, we too can play our part by buying the paper regularly, by contributing to its content or perhaps by advertising.

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