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Valleys without a voice: Welsh local media news gaps mapped

Press Gazette has charted news provision in Wales by local authority.

By Clara Aberneithie

Local media coverage in Wales has declined to the extent that some local authorities’ news is going being completely unreported.

Merthyr Tydfil and Neath Port Talbot have been identified as Welsh local authorities severely lacking local media coverage in Press Gazette research.

While these authorities may be consuming local media, their news is rarely covered by it.

Using data from the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF), Muck Rack, Google News searches, and reaching out to councils and news outlets, we have pieced together the state of Welsh local news.

Press Gazette only included news outlets in our map if they are publishing at least three stories per week about their local authority area.

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We collected data which revealed to what extent local authority news was covered by local press, not where that local press was based.

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Some local authorities, such as Powys, have rich and broad local news outlets that publish on a regular basis.

The Hereford Times and County Times are two of the titles covering Powys that publish at least three stories per week. According to Similarweb their websites reach 387,479 and 956,923 visitors per month respectively.

However, most local authorities in Wales are not covered as thoroughly.

For instance one local authority, Merthyr Tydfil, appears to only be covered by one paper, called the Merthyr Express.

Published by Reach, the Merthyr Express has a circulation of 388 per week according to ABC, down from around 20,000 copies per week around the year 2000.

Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil Cllr Malcolm Colbran told Press Gazette: “A few weeks ago, I noticed that there was not a single article relating to Merthyr Tydfil in it and because there’s nothing about Merthyr in the Merthyr Express, people stop buying it.”

He added: “20 years ago, the Merthyr Express was very popular, people looked forward to getting it on a Thursday.

“But over the years, the readership has declined and I think the circulation now is very low.”

When asked about how local news spreads now in his town, Colbran said: “Social media is used as compensation but it’s not the same.

“Obviously, most communities have their own pages with hyper-local information but there’s nothing covering the whole of Merthyr Tydfil.

“Plus, you get a lot of people expressing their own personal opinions on social media, resulting in really dominant people taking over certain conversations.”

Colbran stressed the importance of the council’s website and social media for spreading news to residents but appreciated the struggle of reaching those who may be less tech-savvy.

He added: “The council also has a newspaper called Contact which goes out to all households three times a year and is delivered free of charge.

“There aren’t many local authorities which still do that but we think it’s important.”

Newsquest’s closure of its Welsh news site The National just 18 months after it launched appears to fit a general trend of declining local journalism in the country.

The National’s editor said its closure was due to subscription declines during a cost of living crisis and competition from free news providers such as the BBC.

Local news network Nub News covers the towns of Penarth, Cowbridge and Barry, which are under the governance of Vale of Glamorgan.

According to Nub News regional editor Neil Speight they produce around ten stories per week for each town, but there is only one dedicated journalist.

He said: “Currently we have no-one in post, and we are covering the area remotely with internal resources.”

Press Gazette asked every Welsh local authority press office to rate the quality of local media coverage in their area and no-one responded with concerns about journalism in their area.

A spokesperson for Bridgend Council said: “Coverage of council news is generally strong, largely down to the presence of Local Democracy Reporters who are operating in the area.”

Likewise, a spokesperson for the Vale of Glamorgan council said: “We are satisfied with local coverage from these outlets.”

Methodology

Press Gazette contacted all Welsh local authorities, requesting a list of the news outlets which covered the area’s news at least three times per week.

This list was extended using data from Public Interest News Foundation, Muck Rack and Google News searches for the local authority.

The focus was on collecting information on media outlets which cover certain local authorities, not where those media outlets are based or where people consume local media.

Press Gazette then contacted each news outlet from the list to enquire about their regional coverage.

We also visited each online news outlet’s website to ensure that those who published less than three stories per week about a certain area were ignored.

Disclaimer: Mapping local news provision in the UK is hard because most titles no longer publish audited ABC print circulation figures, and where newspapers survive they are often hollowed out. That is why we have based our research on trying to track published relevant online outfit which has required us to make qualitative judgment calls.

If you know of a news outlets which should be added to our list (or you think some should not be on on there) please email pged@pressgazette.co.uk.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
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  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
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  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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