Back to the future for local news
The announcement that housing association New Charter has stepped in to rescue weekly newspaper The Tameside Reporter from closure could herald a new era for local media.
Mine is a unique perspective on this latest model of local journalism; I cut my teeth as a young newshound on the paid-for title and went on to specialise in communications in the not-for-profit housing sector, working with housing associations across the UK.
So what’s the significance of this week’s announcement and the re-launch of the paper today?
Against a backdrop of declining local and regional media sales, it’s great to see a paper rescued rather than closing down, especially one that dates back to 1855. With the job losses made to streamline local newspaper models in recent years, it’s equally refreshing to see the title recruiting for trainee reporter positions.
Most of all, it’s warming to see the title re-launch by reconfirming its community roots, representing a return to core news values and a local focus - to secure its future.
Does this matter in an increasingly disconnected world? Absolutely. Local news has a vital role to play, it connects communities and champions local accountability, which is at risk of being lost through the decline of regional media.
Today, housing associations are concerned with far more than providing just bricks and mortar; they also play a pivotal role in supporting stronger neighbourhoods and bolstering communities.
For that reason, I can understand why a housing association would invest in a local paper, also recognising the possible opportunities for local jobs and apprenticeships. It’s still a bold move and one that takes a pioneering organisation, one that doesn’t shy from the big question that inevitably stems from such a symbiotic relationship - how can editorial independence be sustained?
Both the Reporter editor and New Charter Chief Executive vow this is not in question; the paper will have full editorial control and the housing association stress they will not interfere and the title will in no way be its mouthpiece. Still, a resident in the borough, I’ll be keeping a watching brief.
Will we see this model replicated in other parts of the UK as local newspapers fight for survival? If it proves successful then hopefully so - in which case we will owe New Charter a vote of thanks for their confident template.
Diana MacCarthy (pictured below on the front page of the Tameside Reporter, April 1998)
Date: 25th Oct, 2012
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