The demise of the local press
Everyone has a local paper in their area. It’s there and is a staple of the community. Back in the day, it was the only thing that could connect everyone.
Then social media arrived, and it was declared that print was dying.
Growing up, I’d always have a flick through the paper. Sometimes I’d have a bit of a giggle at the stories, and sometimes I’d comment on social media about the accuracy of bits (always the know it all). But something has happened to local press in the past few years.
I was speaking to a former employee of my local paper, and she was saying to me how the office disappeared. First the printing press went to Nottingham, then the sales and marketing, and about 200 editorial staff were cut to 20. Of course it’s hard times for all companies at the moment, but the “soul being stripped” out of the office of a local press? How are the staff supposed to properly understand the readers and fight for them, if where they’re working has been taken away?
They can’t, really. Papers are more commercialised than ever. My local paper had 24 pages of local news last week, which was about a third of it. The rest was adverts and pieces such as fashion, tech, gaming. I know that those supplements are hired out externally, and then just slapped into loads of local papers. No one in my home town goes to the local paper to read about tech and gaming.
The lack of care does reflect in the pages. I spotted a grammar mistake in a copy a couple of weeks ago on the front page. It’s a lack of care, not from the writers but the people who now own the papers. They aren’t bothered about what’s in it, so long as they can stuff it with adverts and get the cash. I know that the newspapers have so many adverts to cover the costs, but there’s a difference between doing that and taking away the identity of the paper.
One time there was an assault at a popular Chinese restaurant, and Facebook was blowing up. I was waiting for my paper to report on it, as obviously things can get a bit twisted on social media. I sent them an email with it, and on the Monday they said, “Thanks, saw that at the weekend, will write that now.” At the time I thought they were being lazy, but now I realise that they don’t have the money or supplies to be able to report on things quickly.
I don’t believe print is dead. Being the Editor-in-Chief at my university magazine has made me believe in it so much more. There’s nothing like making your own publication from scratch, and getting a huge box full of them in the post. The smell of ink, the distribution… I don’t think people will ever tire of having something tangible to read.
I hope that local press doesn’t die. The big regionals struggle, sure, but they still have a newsroom and some have their own printers. Little local papers, they’re the ones that just need a bit more love. Find one, flick through it. You don’t know when it will disappear, whether through a lack of money or just drowned in commercialisation completely.