How can journalism survive the decline of print and what are the dangers of a growing democratic deficit in local reporting?

Total national daily / national Sunday newspaper paid circulation, and total households,
Great Britain, 1950-2010

 Total national daily / national Sunday newspaper paid circulation as % of households,
Great Britain, 1950-2010

The above graphs clearly indicate the decline in print media over the last 60 years. However, the decline of print does not mean the end of journalism. It means changes in the way news is being distributed and consumed. The print era is clearly declining while social media and mobile technology is the way of the future. The way forward is to embrace and adapt to these changes.

There are numerous advantages to digital media:

  • rapidity. instantaneous. Breaking news on the go
  • news now more accessible
  • global. Can reach a much wider audience
  • choice of platform and how we consume news
  • can be transmitted and absorbed on an almost unconscious level
  • more engaging. Interactive, personal.
  • cheaper and easier to produce

However, some of the disadvantages are:

  • loss of social skills
  • fake news and bad news also travel fast
  • lack of control as to truth and content
  • does not cater for elderly population

In conclusion, I would say that the advantages of digital media out way the disadvantages by far. Print will continue to decline as the elderly generation also decreases.

With regards the deficit in local reporting, I came across the following published report.

Media Standards Trust,  “Addressing the Democratic Deficit in Local News through Positive Plurality Or, why we need a UK alternative of the Knight News Challenge.” October 2014.

It states, “Local newspapers are in crisis. The number of professional journalists reporting on local news has plummeted in the last decade. There are now areas of the UK where there is virtually no professional news reporting at all. Local Councils now regularly go unattended and unreported. There is a slowly growing network of hyperlocals, and many are performing important community and democratic functions, but the network is far from universal and is varied in both depth and quality. A 2013 study identified 496 active hyperlocal sites across the UK. These are not spread consistently across the UK. In the whole of Wales there are fewer than 30 hyper local sites.”

The future is bleak, hyper local news is difficult to sustain because of the lack of funding and the decline in advertising revenue. The sector relies heavily on voluntary candidates and good will. There are, however, some useful resources available. For example Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism has produced this practical guide.


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