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July 6, 2017

Government and news organisations need to work to together to solve problem of dwindling local coverage

By Agency Provocateur

Kensington and Chelsea Council wanted to have a council meeting without journalists. When the journalists turned up, they had a hissy fit.

Residents of Grenfell Tower want to know why the press never covered their concerns about fire safety before the tragedy.

And in an unrelated incident, Southwark’s coroner started an inquest on a terrorist without telling the media until 15 minutes in.

Don’t get me wrong, there were times during days on local papers when I would have begged NOT to have covered a council meeting.

Particularly if it clashed with a night when Spurs were at home.

But today, it’s not just the public who hates us, it is the people who serve the public too. From the police to the council to the courts to the government.

No one likes us, we don’t care. But we should.

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A lack of press coverage on what public servants do and say means they get away with it. And when they get away with it, the public are justified in asking why the media didn’t hold them to account.

After all, that’s what we’re here for – telling truth to power and all that. Except we’re not, not all the time and, increasingly, not when it counts.

It all starts at a local level and works its way up.

Good local journalism means covering council block residents complaining about the lack of fire safety so they don’t look back and ask “where were the press?”

Good local journalism means a connection with a local authority that ensures no council even thinks of trying to ban the press from covering a meeting.

And good local journalism means no coroner will ever think it is okay to try to hold a public inquest without telling anyone.

But good local journalism needs to be funded. The days of every local patch covered by a news agency are long gone because there’s no money it. Many of the smaller agencies doing that job have gone under.

Perhaps crowdsourcing or some kind of collaboration that involves local and national authorities, broadcasters, national press, agencies and local communities could do the same here as has been done in some places abroad, such as the USA.

Although a good start would be to stop hating each other.

An occasional blog by a NAPA news agency boss who has asked to remain anonymous

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