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Williams, Andy; Harte, David; Turner, Jerome (2015)
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: NE, PN1990
The public interest value of news is often viewed through the prism of its relationship to democracy. In this respect news should act as: a source of accurate and plural information for citizens; a watchdog on elites; a mediator and/or representative of communities; and as an advocate of the public in campaigning terms. All of these roles are under pressure in the United Kingdom’s commercial local news sector. This has led many to speculate, often without evidence, that the output of a new generation of (mainly online) hyperlocal citizen news producers might (at least partially) play some of these roles. To test this assumption, we completed 34 semi-structured interviews with producers, the largest content analysis to date of UK hyperlocal news content (1941 posts on 313 sites), and the largest ever survey of UK community news practitioners (183 responses). We found that these sites produce a good deal of news about community activities, local politics, civic life and local business. Official news sources get a strong platform, but the public (local citizens, community groups) get more of a say than in much mainstream local news. Although there was little balanced coverage in the traditional sense, many community journalists have developed alternative strategies to foster and inform plural debate around contentious local issues. The majority of hyperlocal news producers cover community campaigns and a significant minority have initiated their own. We also found that critical public-interest investigations are carried out by a (surprisingly) large number of community news producers.

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