The Charitable Journalism Project has launched its first research project: exploring the rise of ‘news deserts’ in the UK. The report investigates the conditions for local news in seven communities in the UK. Based on focus groups and interviews in these communities. The report, which is available in full below, found that social media are now dominant in local news and information systems, used for a range of local information and communication functions as well as to access local news websites. These social media and interactions on these platforms are seen as causes of local social division and sources of misinformation.
Furthermore, the report found that local newspapers are no longer perceived as ‘community glue’, holding community identity and collective emotion. Some respondents even characterised local news websites as provocative ‘clickbait’, mostly devoid of nuanced or positive reporting. This is exacerbated by the perception that local government is poorly scrutinised by journalists and that national institutions and local public services – including the NHS, police, education and the environment – are thought to be both under-reported and misrepresented.
The report concludes that people want a trusted, locally based, professional and accessible source of local news, that reports and investigates local issues and institutions, and publishes positive stories that help bind the community together, but that this is lacking in many areas of the country.
The report has also been discussed by Jim Waterson for The Guardian.
Local News Deserts in the UK final PDF