Matthew Munson: Celebrating one year of local news, views and photos

The future of local news?

Next week will be a year since I first wrote a column for this fine newspaper, and I wanted to spend a moment celebrating the fact that we’ve had a year of it; the paper as a whole, I mean to say, not just my column (even my healthy ego wouldn’t be that presumptuous).

There’s a lot of pessimism around local journalism’s future, and I can see why; print revenue is collapsing, and that’s closing or merging local offices into bigger and bigger newsrooms. In this New World, shared content across a range of local titles creates less space for truly local news and is delivered by writers and journalists who aren’t even local. Cutbacks of true localism are all too common, and all too depressing.

But if you want to know what’s happening in Thanet – whether it’s the latest on Manston, Pleasurama, housing, the local council, or any number of a hundred other things that regularly feature on local residents’ lists of interesting subjects – then local journalism is the place to be. There really is no substitute for it, something papers with centralised news teams won’t really get.

Being innovative with technology is, of course, essential to any local paper’s future, and here in Thanet that is no exception. This paper you’re currently ready is actually not colloquially a newspaper in the traditional term; it should be, of course, called a news site. No paper exists in the final version of the news that reaches your inbox, although I’m not sure how much paper the Esteemed Editor’s desk gathers on a daily basis (I hope not very much), and actually, we’re a lot better for it.

It gives readers a new choice and ability to access news far more immediately and in a format that works for them. We don’t have to wait for a particular day of the week. It makes life more immediate and busy for the writers filing the reports, I should imagine, but I prefer knowing what’s happening when it’s happening.

Huge companies now own the vast majority of the country’s local newspapers, and that’s where the shift in cost cutting, centralisation, and experienced staff reductions all sadly comes in. But then you get the localised news site starting to come up, all engaging in a more pure community-minded journalism that many people once thought was dead – and that includes me.

But when you see examples like The Isle of Thanet News picking up the local mantle and getting back to the original principles of what local journalism should be like – for local communities by people in those communities – I think that’s a fantastic, effective contribution to enhancing our community. Any local area without a free, strong local news site is lacking something severely fundamental to its community spirit, and we’re very fortunate that Thanet has this site.

Independent, hyperlocal sites produce news that was once fully covered by the dead tree press. Now they are the bulwark of proper journalism; they cover local politics, hold local politicians and other elites to account, promote local community life, and publicise local campaigns. Hyperlocals are embedded in local life and we are fortunate to have examples of that in beautiful Thanet.

Happy almost-first birthday to The Isle of Thanet News; long may you thrive!