Legacy local news
Traditional local news publishers with profit-driven corporate ownership structures failed to create new business models as Silicon Valley rose and their advertising revenues fell. They pursued consolidation and staff cuts instead of reinvesting and reinventing to counter the threat from the tech giants.
Just four publishers now control 88% of the UK’s local and regional titles and 96% of local authority districts have a single dominant local news publisher. Thousands of jobs have gone yet the publishers remain ensnared in platform algorithms and diminishing online returns.
Targets are imposed on journalists who have been described as “battery hens”, because they must produce half a dozen stories a day, to generate as many page views as possible. These discount editorial responsibility in favour of clickbait headlines and ephemeral content that rarely reflects the public interest or even constitutes journalism at all.
The resulting churnalism and cheerleading simply amplifies content marketing, public relations puff and local authority press releases which are often more promotional message than public information. More than 90% of local public interest news articles now come from managed media sources instead of reporters attending meetings.
This publishing model cannot keep people informed about important issues that affect them and the communities in which they live and work.
Academic research shows a clear link between the decline in local public interest news and falling engagement with local democracy (such as voter turnout) as well as negative impacts on the accountability of local institutions and public finance management. Other studies show that trust in news has declined alongside trust in other civic institutions.
Only news publishers with the operational capacity and independence from external influence to make informed, responsible judgements about the public interest on a case-by-case basis can deliver the journalism that local democracy needs.
More about Exeter Observer
- Independent, investigative, in the public interest
- Journalism with community benefit at its heart
- The story so far
- Distribution & promotion
- Democracy doesn't work when people don't know
- Legacy local news
- Exeter media in perspective
- Local news that matters
Exeter Observer is published by Exeter Observer Limited, Community Benefit Society No. 8435 registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014.
Our registered address is St Sidwell’s Community Centre, Sidwell Street, Exeter EX4 6NN.