A few days ago Trinity Mirror announced the latest round of local newspaper closures. Sadly one of them is my own local paper, the weekly Crosby Herald. It has a paid for circulation of around 3,500 and will be greatly missed in the local community.
It is interesting to note that, while many people in the Crosby area are understandably upset by the announcement, their political leaders have so far been unusually quiet on the subject. Neither Peter Dowd (Leader of Sefton Council and PCC for a safe seat) nor local MP Bill Esterson has said a single word in protest at the closure of the paper. If I was a cynical person (perish the thought!) I might wonder if their silence could possibly have anything to do with the fact that Trinity Mirror publishes the Daily Mirror, the only national daily tabloid to support the Labour Party.
The Crosby Herald is just the latest in a long line of local weekly and daily newspapers to bite the dust. Declining circulations and a serious drop in advertising revenue mean that many of these publications are no longer financially viable. However, I do feel that commercial considerations need to be balanced against the very important role which local papers can play in the community.
There is also an exclusion issue here. While it is certainly true that much of the information traditionally carried by local papers is now freely available online, we need to remember that not everyone has a laptop or a smartphone. Many sections of society, such as the elderly and the poorer socio economic groups, do not have access to the internet and therefore are unable to access news and information.
However, there is some encouraging news. The DCMS recently hosted a summit meeting at which representatives from publishers, unions and political parties discussed setting up an inquiry into the future of local newspapers. Perhaps a fund could be established to set up community trusts to keep local papers alive for the benefit of local people and local businesses?