A warning that the continuing closure of local newspapers threatens local government democracy came from a Cambridge city councillor at the TUC Congress in Liverpool today (Wednesday 10 September).
Labour councillor and former Cambridge University Press printer Nigel Gawthrope told delegates: “The decline of local newspapers is an employment and industrial issue in my print sector, but it is a question of democracy and transparency for wider society.”
Nigel Gawthrope, a member of Unite, the country’s largest union, was seconding a National Union of Journalists’ motion calling for a government-commissioned inquiry into the future of local newspapers to consider new models of ownership and how newspapers can be protected as community assets.
Nigel Gawthrope said: “Local newspapers are an important way of people in my community finding out what I and other councillors are doing, and ensuring that our actions being scrutinised and we are being held to account.
“We still have the Cambridge News and thankfully it is still supported by the local community. But many local newspapers have closed and many have drastically downsized; print jobs have been lost as titles have become history and circulation has fallen.
“Journalist jobs have been lost and those that remain are so over-stretched they are forced to overly rely on press releases from the council and other organisations.”
Nigel Gawthrope also expressed concern that the decline of local newspapers meant that only those from relatively wealthy backgrounds could take up journalism as a career, which itself, distorted how journalism is presented nationally.
The TUC’s concern comes against a backdrop of 140 newspapers closing since March 2011 and a quarter of local government areas are not covered by a daily regional newspaper.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey