British regional and local newspapers are just not good enough to retain readers let alone win new readers, says Roy Greenslade, commenting of the latest readership figures in his Guadian blog. I agree with everything he says about the figures which show every title losing sales and can do no better than suggest you read him.
But before you go, I would add one thing. Centralisation of power in Britain has torn the heart out the serious part of local reporting. It has left local authorities as little more than agents delivering Whitehall policies. Privatisation has removed the utilities from local scrutiny too. This year we narrowly missed the creation of regional police forces which would have taken them away from the control of individual counties.
In Suffolk we have the scandal of a hospital being penalised for beating the targets for treating patients because the Primary Care Trust had only been allowed to budget for the hospital meeting its target. The regional papers rightly have given the story extensive coverage but ultimately the control rested in London.
Regional and local newspapers have been left with the ever-important human interest stories, the road crashes and the amateur dramatics but struggle to find local political stories which affect the lives of their readers. In a real sense local and regional reporting is less important to people than it once was. So they don’t turn out to vote and they don’t buy the newspapers.
All that is no excuse and Greenslade is right: owners needed to improve the quality of their journalism not cut back on reporting.