The Reading Post, the 159 year old Harrow Observer as well as the Wokingham and Bracknell Times, Surrey Herald, Surrey Times and Woking Informer and Get Reading are all gone. Last week, Local World closed the Burton Advertiser free-sheet and the paid-for Uttoxeter Post and Times will close next month. As a local journalist I count myself lucky to be working for a publication that has not just made all its staff redundant.
Of course I am concerned about the closures and job cuts but I am more concerned about what is being left behind when these local titles are shut down.
More and more we are seeing press releases and clickbait being touted as journalism. Qualified journalists are losing their jobs rapidly so who will be left to ask “is it true?” and hold councils, public bodies and businesses to account?
Michelle Stanistreet, National Union of Journalists (NUJ) general secretary said on the day that the last Reading Post was published:”It is a really sad day. The closure of this award-winning and popular newspaper makes absolutely no sense to the readers or the dedicated journalists and staff who have been serving their local community with news, features, gossip, information and the trials and triumphs of the town’s football club for many years. Trinity Mirror’s blinkered new plans to make Berkshire a ‘digital-only zone’ is not what the readers want. It is also a callous way to treat journalists who have been doing a good job.
“This means courts are not being covering, council meetings are not being reported and other public bodies, schools and businesses are not being held to account. Each town in the UK needs a choice of newspapers and websites, plus good, local investigative journalism.”
The NUJ are calling for a national inquiry into the future of local papers and I am adding my voice to this request.
Local democracy is important; we deserve a discussion on the implications of these closures. There is an Early day motion 585: CLOSURE OF LOCAL NEWSPAPERS please raise this issue with your local MP and ask them to sign and support and attend the discussion in Parliament.