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If you want journalism that enables local democracy please say so

The British trades unions have only a shadow of their previous power and influence but the Journalism Matters campaign, given the backing of the TUC earlier this month, deserves every bit of support it can get.

The National Union of Journalists campaign got underway this week with a meeting in Bristol, attended by only about 100 people. But every campaign has to start somewhere.

Hold the Front Page reports that after Jeremy Dear, the union’s general secretary spoke of the “huge profits” being made by newspapers and cutbacks across the industry, David Drew, the MP for Stroud said:

These cuts are not about providing news for a community; they’re an asset-stripping, profit-grabbing attempt to destabilise our democracy.

I don’t believe the intention is to destabilise democracy but that is the effect in many communities where the coverage of local politics has been downgraded by a loss of experienced staff with a real knowledge of the places where they live and work.

It is too easy to say the decline in local and regional coverage is an inevitable result of the move away from print to the web, social change, TV and radio. They are all true but the “bean counters,” as Dear described the press owners, have to take a lot of the blame. They are not investing in the quality of journalism we need either in print or online.

They are not the only ones to blame. I have said before that local government has been emasculated by centralising government, making local coverage of councils less relevant to the readers. So it was good to see that there were two MPs at the Bristol meeting. Kerry McCarthy, the member of Bristol East was there as well as Drew who is a member of the NUJ’s parliamentary group.

Conservative, LibDem, and Scottish and Welsh nationalist MPs should attend further meetings. These parties have all been critical of the loss of local power so it would be natural for them to support “Journalism Matters”.

The ripples of this campaign need to spread out and become waves. A very small way for every reader of this post to show their support would be to leave a comment. Please do that.

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