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‘News Deserts’ in the UK

A Research Project by Steven Barclay, Steven Barnett, Martin Moore and Judith Townend, published by The Charitable Journalism Project

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


Photo by Ananya Mittal on Unsplash



Steven Barclay


I joined CAMRI in 2017 as a Doctoral Researcher on a Quentin Hogg Studentship. Previously, I worked in the television industry as a video editor, mainly making educational films. I have also worked in teaching in various contexts including schools, language schools and community arts. My current research explores the history of media policy, television and radio as a public service of education, educational media, and language and communication in media. In 2018 I was the research assistant on the British Academy funded project ‘Marshall Plan Films about Turkey produced by British Filmmakers.’ I also received a research grant in 2018 from the History of Education Society to digitise the Institute of Education’s Radiovision collection. I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, having completed the University Certificate of Special Study (U Cert SS). I have taught on the modules Media and Society and Media and Globalisation at Westminster. I hold an Honours Degree in History and Philosophy from Glasgow University, an MA in Media Studies from The University of Amsterdam. I also have a PG Dip in Russian language and a HND in Television Production.


21 June 2022
Research Area
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The Charitable Journalism Project
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