Local journalism is under threat and reporters must go out into the community to ensure it will thrive, a panel of speakers including the Mayor of Hackney told students at Goldsmiths last night.
Philip Glanville joined Hannah Walker, the former publisher of the South London Press, Koos Couvée of moneylaundering.com and Gareth Davis of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to debate the future of local media at the Media Forum event, chaired by Professor Angela Phillips.
The panel discussed the importance of local journalism in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster earlier this year, which highlighted the importance of community reporting and investigation.
Davis described how the blog made by people who lived in Grenfell was ignored when it raised questions about fire safety and the only story that did acknowledge it was a recycled press release about the new cladding. “That’s what happens when you don’t have local journalism, you need people to investigate, to go down to Grenfell after seeing that press release and ask them what they think about it,” he said.
Glanville discussed the importance of having a council free sheet such as Hackney Today, which is distributed in his borough. He said: “A local council newspaper allows the council to be more in touch with the people it seeks to represent and serve, it can talk about its services and what’s on offer in the local area.”
However, this was countered by other members of the panel who stressed the importance of using local news as a way to scrutinise local councils and ensure they are held accountable for their actions. It was acknowledged that for this reason it is important the only form of local news is not solely a paper which is owned by the council.
Phillips said: “I think it is very important for journalism students, particular our journalism students, to have a better sense of what is happening in local journalism and why local journalism is important.
“What we wanted to debate was what is happening at a local level in journalism and why it matters.”