A few weeks ago we looked at the role community newspapers can have in acting as a voice for the community. They provide positive news stories about areas that often suffer from an unjustified negative image elsewhere in the media world. They link people in to local services and activities by providing detailed information straight through their front doors. And they document life across the years, acting as a local archive. Research carried out last year by the Media Trust showed that in areas where there was a strong community newspaper presence, local democracy was more active, with local residents feeling listened to and able to speak out about matters affecting them.
Now, as part of the savings being made in the City of Edinburgh Council budget, the remaining printed community newspapers in Edinburgh have had their funding cut. The North Edinburgh News is now planning its final issue. This will feel familiar to many residents in Wester Hailes who will remember the West Edinburgh Times having to close their doors two years ago. Other papers facing closure include the Craigmillar Chronicle and the Speaker in Restalrig.
Many organisations faced cuts and undoubtedly there were difficult decisions to be made. But allowing these independent community voices to disappear seems to be short term thinking at a time when much effort and resources is being placed into trying to involve more people in local democracy. As the Sentinel showed, community newspapers are the most effective way of achieving this, and they never needed a glossy cover to get people involved!