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July 17, 2012updated 18 Jul 2012 2:57pm

CiOJ hands Government four-point plan to save local press

By Cleland Thom

The Chartered Institute of Journalists has come up with some useful proposals to safeguard local newspapers.

It is presented in a four-point plan to the All Party Parliamentary Group examining the crisis in local papers.

Amanda Brodie, CIoJ Professional Practices Board Chairman, told MPs: “Local newspapers are the training grounds for the top-flight national journalists of the future.

“Those newspapers which are still independently owned and operated are not saddled with huge, crippling debts. They may be experiencing some difficulties, but not as severe as those of the larger groups.

“Nor have they dispensed with their main stock-in-trade: their journalists and quality editorial content.”

She cited the South London Press, which has been split into a series of hyper-local titles. Overall circulation  increased by 35 per cent in one week.

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She said: “This shows that if you give readers what they want, they will still buy.”

The CIOJ’s suggestions include:

  • Giving local papers charitable status if they can demonstrate a genuine commitment to their community and fulfil an educational role.
  • Making major groups proposing to close titles or reduce publication frequency offer to sell the titles, perhaps to a local consortium that could be backed with government loans and grants.
  • Backing group chairman Jonathan Edwards MP’s ideaa to designate local papers as community assets under the provisions of the Localism Act 2011.
  • Making companies that buy up local papers provide a statement of intent regarding the titles’ futures. This would be backed up with a requirement to see government permission for any future changes.

Ms Brodie added: “As things stand, a newspaper can be taken over one year and closed down the next, without anyone being able to do anything about it.

“The CIOJ feels this is a massive betrayal of both the journalists and their readership, for a purpose which only benefits the publisher.

“We have campaigned long and hard on many of these issues. But we now call on people in government to act. Without their support, self-interest will prevail, and our local newspapers will be lost.”

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