West Highland Free Press hailed as example of ways to keep local newspapers alive

THE employee-owned West Highland Free Press newspaper has been hailed as an example of the sort of innovative thinking required to save local newspapers from disappearing.

Says a report from the think tank, The Carnegie UK Trust, “new forms of ownership and innovative business models are needed to secure the future of Britain’s 1,100 local newspapers”. The report has been co-produced with Co-operatives UK.

Says a media release announcing the publication of a report into the local Press: “Currently, local newspapers are disappearing at a rate of more than 30 a year, with 250 papers closing in the last eight years. But it is hoped that fresh approaches will help improve the future outlook of local news outlets.”

Only yesterday it was announced that the Liverpool Post newspaper is to cease publication next week.

Continues the media release: “The findings come on the back of the ‘Make Your Local News Work’ report from The Carnegie UK Trust and Co-operatives UK. It found that demand for high quality, local news remains as strong as ever and that the closures don’t have to signal the death of local papers.

“The report calls for more support to be given to local newspapers to help them adopt new ways of working, including turning papers into community owned co-operatives in the same way that residents now own their own village shops and pubs.”

The release hails the WHFP although its assertion that the purchase was to prevent closure is – as allmediascotland.com understands it – not strictly true. The title’s previous owners wanted to sell and were, by all accounts, well-disposed to the idea of ensuring it remained in local hands, via the paper’s employees.

The WHFP was bought by its employees four years ago.

Douglas White, senior policy officer at the Carnegie UK Trust, is quoted, as saying: “Our findings come from meetings across the UK with 200 local activists, journalists and readers. Participants told us that in-depth, local news remains a vital commodity for their community, but people are finding it increasingly difficult to get access to the news that they need.

“We have to think differently about how local news is provided and find new ways to make the supply of this news a sustainable business proposition. We will all be worse off if our local Press continues to disappear before us.”