The idea that the future is local news is getting a lot of play in the papers today. Both Peter Preston in the Observer and Tim Luckhurst in the Independent on Sunday discuss the BBC licence fee settlement and consider what it means for plans for more local TV.
On the print/internet side Tim Robinson in the Observer says, “the humble local paper is about to become even more parochial”.
At lot of the piece is devoted to the thoughts of former Daily Express editor Richard Addis who believes print it the answer for the time being. He says: “The web’s still not user-friendly enough and a lot of us are struggling with our broadband. I don’t see any reason why you can’t do it in print now with the aim of turning it into an internet business when we have 90 per cent broadband penetration. There is a three-year window.”
John Fry, chief executive of Archant, believes the internet may be better placed to meet daily demand. The East Anglian Daily Times site, eadt24.co.uk is cited as an example.
By coincidence, one of the pages in my browser tabs was a page from eadt24 that I had opened yesterday in search of local news. The storms last week have left some homes in Essex and Suffolk without power for several days. My home is in Suffolk, but I have been in London since Wednesday, and I wanted to check up on the latest situation.
Unfortunately the story paints with a very broad brush. Only the small town of Lavenham is mentioned by name. And when I refreshed the page this morning I could see it had not been updated for 25 hours. Worse than the story posted at 9am on Saturday had been written the previous day.
So I read that on Friday 7,700 homes in Suffolk and 3,400 in Essex were still without power. What has happened since? This looks more like shovel-ware than a 24-hour local news website. If very local news means anything there should be details, community by community and they should be up-to-date.
By Saturday lunch-time the BBC site tells me only 1,000 homes in Suffolk remained without power.
If existing media businesses are really to adopt the idea of very local news they have a lot of changes to make in attitudes and business organisation.