By Tim Dixon
It is sad that East Devon’s and West Dorset’s View From community newspapers have closed. But it is heartening to realise just how much so many people valued them when they were around.
And while the huge outpouring of affection for the eight weekly free titles will not save the two-dozen jobs that have been lost, maybe it will encourage new publishers to step forward and launch newspapers in their communities. Because there is an audience and an appetite for them.
It is perhaps not surprising that a crowdfunding campaign has been started in an attempt to raise new funds to enable the series of weeklies to be relaunched – so perhaps there is still hope.
As the financial challenges faced by the View From team clearly illustrate, it is not easy to make a print newspaper viable – but it is most definitely possible.
But we need to acknowledge that we must find a different model to sustain these vitally important components of community life.
That means a few important things need to happen.
1 – the community must want and need its own newspaper
2 – the community must be much more closely involved in the running of the title, enjoying greater access to it, helping to write it, produce it, check and verify it, distribute it and promote it
3 – readers must be prepared to pay for their newspaper. Local print advertising alone is unlikely to sustain a title – and why should it be expected to? That seems an unfair burden on one section of the local community. Let’s be confident in the quality of local journalism and not be afraid to ask readers to support it.
I’d like to know how many people in View From territory miss their weekly newspaper and would like it – or something similar – to come back. And would they be prepared to pay for it?
If there is a big enough groundswell of support for local newspapers – especially ones that are stuffed full of local news and sport – then I think we could make them happen!
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