Time for a local news revival

What's happened to local news, and how we can build something better together

Over the last 10 to 15 years local journalism in Edinburgh has been heading in one direction - unfortunately for the people of Scotland's capital - that is downhill.

Now more than ever Edinburgh needs a quality media outlet and that is what Keep Edinburgh Thriving is here to provide.

We are all familiar with what most local news websites look like now: before you can read the news you have to chop your way through a jungle of ads, only to find endless stories that have nothing to do with local issues and offer no context or insight as to what is really going on in Edinburgh.

This story is about local news, and what’s happened to it over the past 20 years. We are making the argument for why our city needs a new quality media outlet like Keep Edinburgh Thriving.

We are on a mission to reverse some of the trends that have depleted the quality of local journalism. We aim here to offer some insight into the problem – and some hope that we can solve it.

If you find it interesting, it would mean a lot to us if you share this article with a few friends to let them know about Keep Edinburgh Thriving and what we are doing.

Keep Edinburgh Thriving

We launched Keep Edinburgh Thriving in March 2020 to do two things: help provide a revenue for the local independent businesses of Edinburgh and put a smile on the faces of the people who received one of our gift boxes.

During the first lockdown we supported over 50 local independent businesses when they needed it most and sent over 5,000 gift boxes all over the world to those missing loved ones in what was a strange and difficult time for us all.

A year on, we find ourselves still in lockdown but with a more optimistic horizon, so we have decided to pivot once again and try something new in journalism.

Keep Edinburgh Thriving is a start up media company built around our readers, not advertisers.

So why news and why now? Well, there are a couple of very good reasons.

The first is that there is a huge lack of good journalism. The second is that the role journalism plays in our lives is also a problem. Big changes in the media and society over the last 20 years have led to this.

The lack of good local journalism

For decades newspapers turned a pretty penny. They were one of the few places where local businesses could advertise and get in front of potential customers.

After we all got over the fear of the millennium bug, advertisers started to boycott newspapers and started to invest in new types of marketing on platforms like Google or Facebook. These soon-to-be tech giants gave marketers and advertisers a more sophisticated way to gain new consumers.

Another nail in the coffin for newspapers came from the vast amounts of free information the internet now provided people. Lots of readers soon followed and local media companies were left thinking what to do next.

The impact has been catastrophic in the news business.

Year after year there has been cost cutting at the most established news empires. Zeroes have disappeared from the balance sheets of the most established news outlets.

The Scotsman, along with a number of sister publications, was bought by Johnston Press in a deal thought to be in the region of £160 million.

After 12 years of mismanagement a share in Johnston Press is worth nothing and the company sunk into administration with huge debts.

Today the Scotsman and sister titles are now owned by their former creditors. I wonder if the creditors care more about good journalism or eking out as much profit as they can before the walls around them crumble.

Many journalism students who go on to work for local newspapers soon realise they aren't really doing journalism at all.

More commonly graduates will be dealing with press releases in a quick-fire fashion, so rather than doing good investigative journalism – going out to meet sources and interviewing people – journalists at all levels are simply turning round this copy, often without much time to check their work.

Local news outlets are fixated on driving clicks and traffic to their websites because they are looking to fill the void left by tumbling print revenue with online advertising revenue.

Articles are filled with a plethora of ugly ads, distracting the reader and ruining the whole experience.

To make online ad revenue work, media companies rely on getting as many people to their website as possible so that means quantity rather than quality of articles wins out. As a result we are left with local news outlets running stories with clickbait headlines that are often nothing to do with local events.

The new role of local journalism

In 2021, most of us consume too much information. Over the last 100 years we have moved from information scarcity to overload.

Getting hold of information is not a problem - it’s figuring out which snippets are important, and which are just noise.

Journalists who are tasked to churn out four or five articles a day are only adding to this noise. These journalists, at no fault of their own, are not providing the product that local Edinburgh people need in an era of super-abundant information.

Good Journalism is: sifting through the mess, validating truth, speaking to experts, and providing the context people need to understand what is really going on in their own back garden.

At Keep Edinburgh Thriving we look at news from a reader-first perspective.

For too long short-sighted local media companies have reported on the news from their own selfish perspective. With the goal of getting thousands of readers each month, they publish countless articles about viral social media posts, press releases and entertainment. These types of stories take little time or effort to write but they do go a long way to help drive that all important ad revenue.

Local news needs to be reported from the perspective of the reader.

The quick news stories about entertainment and viral stuff can be found easily anywhere on the internet or social media, places that have no local or journalistic remit.

Good local journalism needs to report on stories that show the truth even if the truth is not what the local councils, police or businesses want us to know. We need to give the correct context even if that shows something in a less flattering light.

The reader deserves to know about the local stories that do not come from press releases.

That's what journalists should be working on - but good journalists often don’t have time to provide it at newsrooms where ad revenue comes first.

The Pivot 2.0

  • Keep Edinburgh Thriving is written by the people of Edinburgh for the people of Edinburgh.
  • We are self funded by readers not advertisers.
  • We focus on quality rather than quantity.
  • And everything we do is based on the principle of building trust with you, our reader.

We have pivoted as a startup local media company because we know the people of Edinburgh need a different type of news, reported in a new way.

Keep Edinburgh Thriving will pioneer thoughtful news, reporting that looks at topics at length in an investigative fashion.

If you agree with these arguments about local news, please share this with your friends, and think about whether you would like to sign up to our daily newsletter – it provides you with a sense of what's happening in Edinburgh in five minutes or less every morning.

Keep Edinburgh Thriving aims to be the smartest, easiest way to connect with the place you live and love.

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