Media Trust explains how local news hubs will work

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 herethe 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.
It is a fascinating piece of work and there was fair coverage – for example from the Guardian,,  and a post from Martin Moore of the Media Standards Trust among others, but no immediate follow through.
The Big Lottery Fund People Power Change programme provided an opportunity for the Trust to turn what must have seemed somewhat visionary recommendations into a project with a range of mainstream media partners, and others. The professionally-supported news approach is not all that’s needed for knowledge sharing among communities, as I argued here, but from my conversation with Gavin, the Media Trust project could provide impetus across a wide range of community and social reporting activity – if we take up the challenge. Among Gavin’s points:
  • 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.
There’s a formal process to register interest, and in addition Gavin says he is happy to meet and chat.
Over the past few years I’ve had a number of discussions with community and social reporter types about the need to collaborate, do something more substantial etc … but somehow it never happened. I think this is the wake-up call to get together amongst ourselves as well as with the Trust and others to see what’s possible.


  • Alex Stobart
    June 19, 2011 - 9:24 am | Permalink


    I have written to Media Trust for more information, as I’m not sure whether their work extends to Scotland.


  • June 19, 2011 - 9:39 pm | Permalink

    David and Alex:
    Definitely Scotland – as per our emails Alex. Community Channel broadcasts across the UK and carries great films from communities and charities in Scotland, independent film-makers, STV/BBC Scotland social action content etc, and when Community Newswire re-launches in July it will distribute community news UK-wide, including to Scottish media, who picked up a lot of stories last year.
    Will look forward to our meetings in Scotland and to visiting you too Alex hopefully.
    David, thanks for positive comments and video i/v,
    very best,caroline

  • George Pitchert
    June 24, 2011 - 1:48 pm | Permalink

    For 14 years I have produced a quarterly newsletter/magazine (16pp/A4) and remained independent by financing only through adverstising.
    Money is getting tighter and I want to go to web–is there some way you can help?

  • david wilcox
    June 24, 2011 - 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Thanks George – like most things in the field the answer is “it depends”, and mainly on the purpose.
    Why are you producing the magazine, and who is it for? Could you achieve the same results or benefits online with those readers?
    Do you have the necessary online skills?
    You may well be able to cut your costs by going online, but it will probably be difficult to get much if any revenue from advertising or other sources.
    Would you like to say more about the publication? It is an interesting issue.

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