PM praise for local papers and websites – but no help

Call Me Dave’s been let loose again, this time “writing” about local newspapers for Local Newspaper Week (yes, there’s even one of those).

Thing is, if you exchange each Cameronian reference to “newspapers” with the word “website” or “blog”, the Prime Minister’s scriptwriter might almost have been drafting an agenda for Inside Croydon and other hyperlocal sites like it.

Cameron (or more likely his fag) wrote: “Local newspapers are hugely important to our country – for two good reasons. First, they strengthen our democracy, holding the powerful to account.

“Whereas national newspapers can focus on the bigger picture, it’s local papers that often really analyse the detail of what central and local government is doing and the impact their policies have on the ground.

“Second, local papers are hugely important in helping to build a bigger, stronger society. There is a massive gap between the state on the one hand, and the individual on the other, and local papers help fill the space in between, galvanising readers into action.”

But as Professor Roy Greenslade observes in his media column for the national Grauniad, Cameron is long on rhetoric, while short on policy.

Make no mistake, local newspapers – or at least those without a decent proprietor and a digital strategy – are struggling.

Here in Croydon, things have never been so grim. The freebie “Croydon” Guardian now works out of offices in Sutton, while its journalists are being squeezed out of the paper by the week, as less space is devoted to news by the avaricious management. The hacks, hacked off and in fear for their jobs, have even launched an industrial dispute in which they are campaigning to do more work.

Not that it’ll do them any good, as the accountants who run the company are expected to make a couple more local reporters redundant in the next couple of months.

Which leaves us with the evermore uninspiring Croydon Sadvertiser, which lurches from blunder to blunder while its circulation spirals downwards. Since it is unseemly to intrude in private grief, we have not reported on the paper’s recent referral to the Press Complaints Commission by their old mates on Croydon Council, nor on last week’s almighty front page howler (to see the humble apology, click here). At least not until now.

Of course, a large chunk of the nation’s local newspapers, including the Sadvertiser, are ultimately owned by the same company that runs the Tory-supporting Daily Mail, and which even has the deal to print the Croydon Conservative party’s In Touch leaflets. So maybe Call Me Dave was just spouting more platitudes to keep his chums in the print business happy…

Read the prof’s commentary here: Cameron praises local newspapers – but what will he do to help them? | Media | guardian.co.uk.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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