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Good news for citizen journalism

19 April 2012

The Daily Mail, The Sun and the now defunct News of the World, were all implicated or exposed as players in the dirty business of phone hacking. Over the past six months we’ve seen countless celebrities queue up to tell their stories of violation, bribes and door stepping. Some would say not entirely unexpected of the tabloid media, built largely on sensationalised, celebrity driven gossip, but now The Times has been brought to task (and sued) over admitting to accessing a police blogger’s email account. The Times Editor, James Harding apologised at the Leveson Inquiry saying “I’m sure that many other people expect better of the Times, and so do I.”

So who should we trust to give us an honest story, without brown envelopes or bugging? It seems that our faith in traditional national media is at an all time low, with similar issues affecting local newspapers. Media Trust commissioned research by Goldsmiths Leverhulme Media Research Centre into the news needs of local communities revealed a crisis in the provision of good quality local news. It also showed “an explicit relationship between local and community news, local democracy, community cohesion and civic engagement” highlighting how important consuming news is to inspiring positive social change.

Restoring faith in national news may take a while, particularly as the Levenson Inquiry airs more dirty national press laundry in public, but the prognosis for hyper local news looks far healthier with a raft of citizen journalists taking local storytelling into their own hands.

One example illustrates well how empowering people to communicate can inspire positive social change at home. When the Butcher’s Arms pub in Crosby Ravensworth, Cumbria was closed due to the ill health of the landlord, The Lyvennet Community Trust decided to form a co-operative to purchase and re-open it. The community rallied around a blog that was set up to champion the cause and under the ownership of a new co-operative of 300 local residents, the Butcher’s Arms was opened for business.

This is just one of hundreds of inspiring stories from the ground which have no other agenda than to highlight positive social change happening on doorsteps everywhere. To help more people to tell their local stories, Media Trust has developed newsnet, an online service with practical advice and resources for budding citizen journalists. A step in the right direction in empowering people with the tools to communicate what’s important to them, and strengthening local communities in the process.

Now that’s definitely something worth writing home about.