Neil Thackray’s Business Media Blog

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The cause of local press decline discovered in our archive

I want to share with you some quotes.  Bear with me, if I don’t tell you the provenance  of all of them yet.

“As in other industries, the attraction of large scale operation has inevitably meant the demise of the small independent weekly newspaper, in the same way that it has meant the demise of the small corner shop which has given way to the supermarket. In the latter the customer loses the individual service and attention of the shopkeeper.  In the former the opinions representing the least powerful social groups are progressively excluded by the process of ownership concentration.”

“Communications media should be accessible to all modes of expression and all social groups with something to communicate.”

“We have arrived at a shameful state of affairs where provincial newspapers often seem to hold no views at all”

“All too often a reporter relies on council handouts, press releases and council minutes which can only provide a very shallow insight into local politics.”

“Local newspapers have been forced to keep the numbers of expensive senior journalists as low as possible and to dilute their ranks with younger less experienced reporters.”

“The economic climate is an inevitable handicap in the pursuit of a varied and heterogeneous press.”

In short, the economics of local media puts pressure on costs.  Competition drifts away.  The media owners get lazy.  The readers drift away, and then so do the advertisers.

All this was written in 1981.  The evidence that local media was disenfranchising its readers existed long before the Internet.  We can see it in this commentary written nearly thirty years ago.  The local press was destroying itself thirty years ago. The Internet is not the cause of the problems local media faces, it is the solution.  As the 1981 paper said,

“The most effective answer is to extend the breadth of local media and to allow new developments to grow naturally and apart from the ownership and control of the large media organisations.”

“The future of participation at a local level in media lies not in the entrenched system of regional radio, television and newspapers but rather in the fresh and new developments in media that have yet to fall into the traps that have ensnared traditional formats.”

“The combination of the printed word, television, telecommunications and computer technology give rise to both opportunity and fundamental philosophical questions about the nature of media and its engagement with its audience”.

Where can you find this paper?  In a filing cabinet in my garage.  It is some 40  pages of analysis of the demise of local media called, “Some Consequences of Trends in Ownership and Control in the Local Media”.   I found it yesterday covered in dust.  The Author?  Me. As a young man I may have needed to get out more.






October 19, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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