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Passionate volunteers are transforming local journalism

 

Local reporters passionate about their communities are creating a boom in hyper-local media, but can they survive?

Hyperlocal journalism in the UK creates 2,500 news stories a week according to a new report from the Carnegie UK Trust.

Passionate, mostly volunteer-led reporters are contributing an impressive amount of time and energy to local community websites and blogs, the report entitled Click and Connect finds.

However, while the hyperlocal journalism sector is growing it also faces significant challenges, including a lack of support and funding.

The importance of good-quality local journalism which informs, investigates and inspires community action has never been in doubt - Martyn Evans

The report coincides with the launch of Local Web List, a revamped directory of hyperlocal news providers across the UK and Ireland. It aims to make it easier for people to engage with the hyperlocal news sector; help hyperlocals to establish stronger links with each other if they wish to do so and make it easier for citizens to identify new, reputable, independent sources of local news in their area.

The report finds that while hyperlocal journalism is thriving it faces significant financial and resource challenges, depending on the efforts of a few dedicated people.

Most hyperlocal news sites are self-funded and just 13% generate more than £500 a month. However a recent Crowdfunder project backed by 672 people raised £40,00 for seven UK local news projects, suggesting that local people are willing to pay for good-quality local news.

Martyn Evans, chief executive of Carnegie Trust, said the role of hyperlocal journalism is increasingly important in our society.

"The importance of good-quality local journalism which informs, investigates and inspires community action has never been in doubt. What has been debated, however, is its future in an increasingly digital world," said Evans.

"Consumption of news across online platforms has increased signficantly in the last decade with 69% of UK internet users having visited websites or downloaded apps for news about or events in their local community."

However, he added: "As advertisers have followed audiences to online platforms, the business model traditionally used by local news providers has become increasingly challenging, resulting in a net loss of more than 180 local newspapers in the UK since 2005 and producing gaps in local newspaper coverage."

This move has led to a more nuanced local news landscape than existed when traditional press were based in UK towns and cities, according to Evans.

He added: "While newspaper closures, title mergers, moves online and job losses have made headlines, journalists and individuals passionate about the provision of quality news and information have been increasingly and quietly working often outwith traditional media organisations. In particular, the UK's hyperlocal media sector has been growing and thriving."

The report examines five case studies of innovative hyperlocal websites, including MyTuriff in Aberdeenshire.

 

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