Newspapers named top pick for local news fix

Readers are more likely to pick up a paper than switch on the radio for their local news, research has revealed.

New data published by Ofcom is showing that people are getting their regional news fix by buying a printed newspaper.

This research, which draws on data collected from thousands of adult participants, reveals that 9.77 per cent of participants turn to printed newspapers for local news, while 6.10 per cent of respondents pick up a paper to keep updated with UK-wide news. 

This means that readers are 60 per cent more likely to turn to their printed papers to find out what is happening in their local area – putting newspapers ahead of other news sources such as radio, word of mouth with family or friends, printed magazines, interactive TV services, and podcasts.

The majority of participants are interested in regional affairs, with more than half of respondents (51 per cent) saying that they follow the news to find out what is going on in their local area.

This is roughly the same number of participants (54 per cent) who say they consume news to keep informed about what is going on across the UK.

The Portsmouth News reader Iona Longyear commented: “We get The News delivered as it keeps us up to date with the area around us. The news on TV gives us what else is going on.”

Another commentator, who picks up copies of the Basingstoke Gazette from his local shop, added that he turns to his paper to learn more about what is happening in his city. He said: “It’s difficult finding local news. Even South BBC news talks about other areas. I read the paper to find out about specific local news. I want to hear about traffic and businesses in Basingstoke.” 

The Ofcom data, which was published on October 8, also shows that one in every five participants turned to their printed local or regional newspaper to keep informed. 

Gary Shipton, Deputy Editor In Chief of media company JPIMedia, which owns about 200 local titles, says that these numbers reflect the level of confidence communities have in their local titles: “This pattern of trust is reflected across the local newspaper industry. 

“JPIMedia has some of the most trusted brands in the country – established through delivering quality journalism and content over hundreds of years.”

The company’s regional daily The Yorkshire Post was recognised as the most trusted newspaper in the country in 2019 by audience measurement company PAMCo. This survey, which collected readers’ opinions on most national titles and some regional dailies, showed that The Yorkshire Post had the highest mark among readers of all the newspapers.

Mr Shipton said: “Of the YP readers polled, 92 per cent of them agreed with the statement “I trust what I read” when asked about the Leeds-based newspaper.”

Pointing to YouGov research from 2018 which showed that public trust in the local UK press was at 74 per cent – higher than local commercial TV, radio, search engines, social media, and other websites – Mr Shipton says that this trust can be put down to several factors.

“We set the same standards of trust and accountability across all our brands”, he says.

“Our content is independently regulated by IPSO; our editors are legally responsible and accountable for everything they publish; our journalists are trained to the highest industry benchmark set by the National Council for the Training of Journalists and are contractually bound the the Editors’ Code of Practice – a set of quality ethical rules first established 30 years ago and independently revised.”

Research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, collected from April to October of this year, has shown that this sense of trust has continued throughout the coronavirus outbreak. A survey found that most people in the UK rely on news organisations for information and the majority (57 per cent) think news organisations are trustworthy sources of information specifically in relation to the pandemic.  

The Ofcom dataset was published after MPs called for more support for local newspapers, which have faced significant difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic. 

A letter sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, signed by 23 MPs and dated April 2, 2020, read: “Local media is essential to our democracy as one of the most trusted sources of information for our constituents as well as challenging and holding us as politicians to account. 

“In this time of crises, not only is it vital that local newspapers are supported to provide information to people, but also to support those who are in isolation to keep in touch with their local communities.”

The ‘All In, All Together’ campaign was launched in order to use the regional press to spread awareness about staying safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

This campaign saw the regional and national press work in partnership with the government to urge people to stay at home. 

JPIMedia launched the #BuyAPaper campaign in 2018 to encourage readers to support their local papers. Renewed calls to support the campaign were issued at the beginning of the first national lockdown earlier this year.  

Mr Shipton said: “This quality trusted journalism has to be funded. That is why our #buyanewspaper campaign is so important. Every time you purchase a local newspaper you are helping to fund the trusted journalism that holds local power to account and underpins the democracy that is critical to our communities.”

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