NEWSPAPERS: Journalism plays a critical role in our democratic society

By Hamish Mackay in The Scottish Review

More than 30 UK public libraries, including in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow – West Dunbartonshire Council won’t comment, so we can’t say if or when this will happen here –  will launch displays exploring 500 years of news from 24 February – inspired by the British Library exhibition Breaking the News. The displays will examine what makes an event news, press freedom, and issues of trust, as well as featuring a selection of news stories spanning 500 years of news production in Britain.
The project is being supported by news industry marketing body, Newsworks, whose chief executive, Jo Allan, explains: ‘These localised exhibitions will celebrate 500 years of news by showcasing some of the most important local stories while examining the value of news, free speech and the ongoing importance of local journalism to their communities. This network of activity across local libraries is a brilliant initiative and will be a great way to lead into the launch of the British Library’s Breaking the News exhibition in April’.News Media Association chief executive Owen Meredith said: ‘Journalism plays a critical role in our democratic society, and I hope that these exhibitions will really bring that to life for communities across the UK. Local libraries and local news media titles are both highly trusted institutions within local life and, by working in partnership for these exhibitions and beyond, they can deliver even more value for the public’.

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MPs are to launch a fresh inquiry into the future of local news across the UK. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS) has launched a call for evidence as it prepares to examine what can be done to ‘maintain and protect’ local journalism.

The inquiry will consider the operation of the market for local journalism and how that is affected by increasing competition from social media and public service broadcasters – especially the BBC. It will also look at the impact of the 2019 Cairncross Review into the future of news provision in the UK, in which Dame Frances Cairncross recommended the launch of a new body to oversee ‘public interest news’ which would be independent of the media industry. The DCMS ruled out the idea the following year claiming it would amount to ‘inappropriate government interference with the press’.

In her report, Dame Frances also called for an expansion of the BBC local democracy scheme; an investigation into whether the BBC website has gone beyond its remit; and greater regulation of the tech giants.

Other topics to be examined in the new inquiry include how the UK Government can support local news outlets to develop sustainable business models; the role social media plays in local journalism; and whether partisan and hyper-partisan news outlets are disrupting local news production.

DCMS Committee chair, Julian Knight, said: ‘It is clear that the market for local news journalism has shifted considerably over the past two decades. The need to know what is going on in your area is as great as it ever has been, arguably greater, but there is a very real challenge in how to deliver that. Local news organisations increasingly face competition from social media despite moving their own titles online.

How can we maintain and protect the type of journalism that reports what your council is doing – coverage that is essential to local democracy? We are asking what more needs to be done to make local news journalism sustainable and what form that support should take’.
The committee is inviting evidence by 31 March.
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Scotland on Sunday returned to its first-ever edition as it has undergone a front-page redesign – reverting to a horizontal masthead which featured on its launch edition in 1988.

The change, described by editor Catherine Salmond to HoldTheFrontPage as ‘bold and striking’, is aimed at giving the Edinburgh-based newspaper’s team a wider range of options to choose from each week. The new-look design was launched with a poster splash to mark the Scotland national rugby union team’s Calcutta Cup 20-17 victory over England.

Gavin Munro, from the JPIMedia editorial design hub, told HTFP: ‘We have returned the masthead to its original horizontal format – as it was when Scotland on Sunday launched in 1988 – to maximise our options each week. This allows us to best deliver a poster front – as we did for the Calcutta Cup coverage – or a splash and vertical image, or a splash package. There are lots of options available now to best showcase the work of the team and to really give us a chance to stand out’.

Catherine added: ‘Our new-look front page is bold and striking, allowing us to best show off the content inside. Scotland on Sunday has a lot to shout about – offering some of the best and most exciting award-winning Scottish journalism, and I am confident that this new chapter in our history allows us to stand out on the newsstands’.

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Private Eye has secured its position as the UK’s top-selling news and current affairs magazine, with a 1% year on year rise to an average of 227,039 sales per issue in the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) figures. The SpectatorLondon Review of Books and The Oldie also saw growth in their UK and Ireland circulations, compared to the 2021 figures.

The Economist was the third highest circulation print current affairs magazine in the UK and Ireland, as well as being the UK-based current affairs title with the highest worldwide average print circulation at 648,543 copies.

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