Thursday 18 November 2010

Do council papers really threaten the local press?

Tim Jones, vice-chair of the NUJ's Public Relations Council, accuses the Independent of having allowed itself to be used as a vehicle for Newspaper Society and government propaganda over an article ("Vanity publish and be damned: Why municipal magazines have had their day", 12 November) about council publications.

In a letter to the Independent published today, Jones claims nearly half of all council publications don't carry ads and says closing them down won't save local newspapers but cost the jobs of journalists.

He writes: "Yes, some council publications carry advertising but 45 per cent of them don't. Ads comprise less than 10 per cent of another third. Only 4 per cent of them publish more than quarterly.

"Are they really a serious threat to local weekly and evening newspapers? Twenty per cent said they had taken action to try to help struggling newspapers in their area. In a number of cases the council publications are printed by the local newspaper group and in some instances even produced by them, generating significant additional income.

"Councils need to publish them to give their electorate information which newspapers won't carry. Democracy will suffer if they are not allowed to do this. The National Union of Journalists can comment evenhandedly on this because it has members working in both areas.

"The only outcome of this nasty little campaign will be to make journalists working on council newspapers redundant. It won't make viable regional newspapers which are struggling whether because of new media or the economic downturn or the insatiable quest for increased profits rather than re-investment in the product."

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