Local news is said to be booming – but not when it’s wrapped up in newsprint, according to The Economist magazine.
“Sometimes we turn up at crime scenes before fire engines and ambulances,” says Darren Toogood, editor of the Island Echo, an independent news site on the Isle of Wight.
An army of “tippers” share information about sirens and suspicious activity on a dedicated Facebook group.
The yarns they yield are often thrilling. A 5am chase after a police helicopter led to a kidnapping. Another tip turned up a London gang stealing shotguns from a clay-pigeon-shooting range.
Falling ad revenue and competition from social media mean local papers have been on life support for years now.
Some 265 closed between 2005 and August 2020. Most survivors are now owned by conglomerates. Reach, which owns at least 111 digital and print titles (plus the Mirror, a national tabloid) closed four free papers in 2020.
It also closed its office in Dumbarton for the Lennox Herald and switched the staff away to Glasgow.
It also launched 19 “Live” websites, each with a similar layout. Its sites were viewed nearly 15bn times in 2020, two-fifths more often than in 2019.