Nurturing Community Journalism

Posted by: Sara Moseley

Access to independent information about what is going on locally is essential to the working of a healthy democracy and vibrant community. News, views and information are the life-blood of engagement and action.

The shift to digital has led to a reduction in newspaper advertising revenue, to fewer journalists on the ground and to a damaging gap for local people. When papers closed in Port Talbot, research conducted by Cardiff University showed that 88 per cent of residents questioned still wanted local news. With widespread support from the community, a group of journalists set up the Port Talbot Magnet as a cooperative. Published online, it makes the most of the phenomenal growth in on line audience and the low cost of publishing.

Indeed, Ofcom’s latest market report found that almost half of respondents (49 per cent) claiming to use the internet more for local news and information. Around four in ten claim to be using local news websites/apps (41 per cent and local community websites/apps (38 per cent) more than two years ago.

This combination of demand and opportunity to help support a dynamic new sector was the motivation for establishing the University’s Centre for Community Journalism. Based in the University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies this centre has helped fuse research with practice with the aim of developing a strong network of hyper local and community journalism in Wales and beyond.

Community Journalism

The sector has huge potential for carving out a new, independent space created by and for communities. Local people need the glue of shared information and opinion about what’s on their doorstep as well as a place to have their voice heard.

Like all emerging areas of enterprise, there is a need to nurture and network practitioners and to learn more about what is happening and key factors for success. That is why the Centre for Community Journalism was chosen to become one the University’s major engagement projects.

During the lifetime of our community project we hope to create or transform at least ten new hubs or clusters by offering advice on digital delivery, editorial and business planning as well as providing digitally delivered learning and delivery tools.

It will also partner with ‘Gwladigidol’, a new national forum that provides an opportunity for a range of digital media stakeholders in Wales, (including those from the public, private, and third sectors as well as academics and the creative industries) with an opportunity to have a frank and open debate about emerging issues, to share best practice and to promote initiatives, events and training opportunities in all areas of public life as related to the digital landscape.

The project has already seen two significant successes – with the launch of the first two hubs. PoblCaerdydd was launched at Tafwyl – an annual festival established by Menter Caerdydd in 2006 to celebrate the use of Welsh in Cardiff. PoblCaerdydd is the first such service for the capital’s Welsh speakers and already had 6,000 unique visits. Llais y Maes was also launched at the National Eisteddfod in August – and the work continues.

In the Rhondda key members of the community are already coming together and working with us. Rhondda People is run by a team of community members who have met every week since the beginning of October to create the hyperlocal news service.

Earlier this month, we supported a public meeting for the local community to find out more about how they can make the news. More than 60 people attended including local AM Leighton Andrews.

The Rhondda People editorial team currently includes a shopkeeper, a teacher, a student who lives locally and a charity worker, and the group aim to launch the news service in January 2014.

This is exactly the type of project that we hope to see rolled-out across Wales as a result of our work with the ultimate aim of developing models in Wales of community journalism using social and digital media technologies which can be translated to other communities throughout the world.

Sara Moseley is developing the University’s Centre for Community Journalism at the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies.