20 years of Local Newspaper Week — and why it matters more than ever

Local Newspaper Week marks its 20th anniversary this year. It’s never been more important to raise the profile of the important work local journalists do, says Paul Sinker of the News Media Association:

This year Local Newspaper Week, the industry’s annual campaign to raise awareness of the important role played by local papers in communities across Britain, will celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Much has changed in the industry since the LNW was first launched, primarily as a promotional platform to help publishers drive print copy sales.

Local newspapers’ online audiences have expanded rapidly, giving the 1,000 titles that make up the industry an overall audience of 42 million people in print and digital. That’s 83 per cent of the population.

Local newspapers now have a multitude of different ways to connect and engage with their audiences, giving far greater depth and richness to the relationship between the reader and the journalist.

Now, using digital technology, a local newspaper fundraising campaign that could previously have taken weeks to set up and establish can be up and running within a matter of hours.

The Manchester Evening News’s sensitive coverage of the terror attack in the city last year served as a powerful reminder of the role the local Press still plays in communities

The Manchester Evening News’ #WeStandTogether campaign for those affected by the Manchester Arena attack is a brilliant example of this. Within a day of launch, it had raised over £1 million for those who needed it most.

But the print front page still carries enormous power. The Cambs Times’ Sling the Mesh campaign shone a powerful spotlight on a little known but serious health issue and took it right to the heart of Government.

The Evening Times’ Opt for Life drive to change Scotland’s organ donation laws showed exactly how newspapers can bring about tangible positive change by providing a powerful focal point for a common cause.

These campaigns and many more are what LNW seeks to celebrate and champion. Held at the start of LNW, the Making a Difference public vote sees a selection of powerful local newspaper campaigns from the past year showcased, with the public invited to vote for their favourite.

The Evening Times in Glasgow led the fight for a change in organ donation laws

Each year, Making a Difference illustrates that compelling local newspaper campaigns and investigations are alive and well. The winner of this year’s vote will be announced at the Society of Editors Regional Press Awards by News Media Association chairman David Dinsmore.

The issue of trust in the media remains high on the agenda and will come to the fore during LNW. Earlier this year, Local Media Works, the marketing body for local press which organises LNW, commissioned YouGov to conduct a survey to find out which sources people currently trust most for local news and information.

Encouragingly, although perhaps not surprisingly, the survey found that local press in print and digital is the most trusted source for local news and information, way ahead of search engines and social media.

Local newspapers in print and digital are more than three times more trusted for local news and information than social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn which languish at the bottom of the trust rankings, the research found.

Local newspaper journalism is highly trusted because of the time, effort and training that goes into producing it. That’s why last year we launched for the first time a #trustednewsday during Local Newspaper Week when newsrooms opened up to explain to their readers exactly how local news is gathered, processed and distributed.

A key part of the exercise was demonstrating the enormous amount of care and skill that goes into local news production.

The initiative was a huge success, with the hashtag trending for more than six hours on Twitter. At Local Media Works, we hope that it will be even bigger and better this year when it’s held again on 17 May.

These core themes of trust and the ability to make a difference through powerful campaigning are more relevant today than ever before, as the industry faces up to the challenges of funding high quality journalism in the digital environment.

In this its 20th year, Local Newspaper Week will champion and shine a spotlight on these unique strengths which make local papers such an integral part of the communities they serve.

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