5 July 2012
The Chartered Institute of Journalists this week made an impassioned plea to MPs over the future of local newspapers
Giving evidence at an all-party parliamentary group meeting called by Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards, the CIoJ pointed out that 20 per cent of the UK’s 1,100 local newspapers have closed in the last seven years – more than 240 titles – and it was time MPs supported local newspapers.
CIoJ Professional Practices Board Chairman, Amanda Brodie, told MPs: “This is not just a question of journalists losing their jobs. If we lose our local papers, it will be a loss for the community, a loss for society and ultimately a loss for democracy.
“Democracy is not only the right to vote, but the right to know. Our councils and courts need to be covered, authority needs to be challenged, press offices need to be bypassed – this cannot be left to so-called citizen journalists.”
The reasons for the decline were varied but one factor has been poor management at senior level, with decisions too often being taken by people with no real experience of journalism.
She told the Westminster group: “These managers see qualified journalists and investigative journalism as an unnecessary expense. They are using the economic situation as an excuse to take a filleting knife to our newsrooms. They are systematically denuding our local papers of the very people the industry vitally needs. “
But the CIoJ also saw hope for the future by supporting Mr Edward’s campaign to get local newspapers designated as community assets, through an amendment to the Localism Act 2011.
Outlining some suggestions, Ms Brodie told MPs: “Local newspapers are the training grounds for the top-flight national journalists of the future. Their duty to educate, inform, entertain and campaign, sits well with a possible approach to give them charitable status.”
The CIoJ considers approving future newspaper merger proposals should be strengthened by requiring the taking-over group to provide a statement of intent incorporating guarantees for the maintenance of the taken-over titles and that any future departure from this pledge should require legal consent.
Ms Brodie added: “The Chartered Institute of Journalists has campaigned long and hard on many of these issues. But we now call on people in government to act, because, without your support, self-interest will prevail and our local newspapers will be lost.”
Notes to Editors:-
- Current legislation requires certain statutory notices, made by local authorities and the Welsh Government, to be advertised in local newspapers. However the Labour Welsh Government has proposed changes which allow authorities to bypass the requirement to use local newspapers. The consultation closed in February 2012 but details can be seen online http://wales.gov.uk/docs/det/consultation/120629regsumresponsesenv1.pdf
- In 2009/10 CIoJ successfully campaigned to stop recommended proposals which would have seen the Scottish Parliament’s statutory advertising removed from local newspapers and solely placed online.
- The meeting was chaired by Camarthen East and Dinefwr MP Jonathan Edwards who is concerned about the state of Welsh newspapers and is campaigning to get Westminster MPs to agree to amend the Localism Act 2011. This would lead to newspapers being designated as ‘community assets’ and would give them some measure of protection in the event of threatened closure.
- The Institute’s statement to the APPG can be found here.
- CIoJ support for threat of legal challenge to town hall “Pravdas”