The Big Lottery grant of £1.89 million to enable the Media Trust to develop a network of news hubs, supporting citizen journalism throughout the UK, caused a stir recently because it was awarded without competition, organisations with a track record outside London felt excluded … and in the age of localism should we have central systems or something more bespoke? Read the backstory here, the original announcement, and the latest response from BIG’s CEO Peter Wanless.
Fortunately a more positive story emerged when I was able to talk to Media Trust CEO Caroline Diehl, chairing sessions at the Third Sector Social Media Conference, and the Trust’s director of marketing and communication services Gavin Sheppard.
In the interview Gavin explains that their proposal was based on research commissioned from the Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre, led by Professor Natalie Fenton, and published last year. That argued for the need to support quality local reporting at a time when local papers where disappearing, and for better aggregation through news hubs of the emerging work of citizen journalists and community reporters.
Establishing a more collaborative relationship between news organisations, individuals and civil society should be encouraged in order to enable participation, increase effective engagement, expand the public sphere, and enhance democracy.But such a service will be neither sustainable nor responsive to local needs without a core local news resource with paid for professional journalists who can undertake everyday investigative reporting: the daily routine of keeping an eye on elected and appointed officials and all those who wield power in local communities.Even though the internet can provide opportunities for small-scale local independent journalism and commentary to enter the mediascape, it is not the free, easy and universally accessible option many claim it to be. If we want to have sustainable structures for local media pluralism that can encourage continuity and build expertise as well as engaged audiences, we must also consider ways in which to support them.
- The focus will be on supporting, aggregating and amplifying what’s happening already
- The Trust will be using the Community Channel and Community Newswire – links here
- While “news” will be the main focus, it will be open for people to tell the stories they want to tell
- There will be regional discussions with people who are interested in the programme
- The Trust is very open to ideas for collaboration with existing networks in the field – I mentioned Talk About Local and People’s Voice Media
- It’s not a grant-making programme, but the Trust hopes to work with partners to secure more funds.