As more and more local newspapers cease publishing, shed jobs and move out of the communities they serve, Evelyn Fraser, development manager of the Scottish Women’s Convention, writes about the importance of local newspapers, especially for women. She was invited to do so by NUJ Scotland as part of the Stronger Voice for Women in the Media project. The aim of the project is to improve representation of women working in the media and how women are represented by the media.
Is there any need to have printed local newspapers? Absolutely, says Evelyn Fraser, development manager of the Scottish Women’s Convention.
Women have commented on the importance of local media, particularly in rural Scotland where communities are small and information hard to come by.
Some might say –
“We live in a digital society.”
But what about poor or expensive broadband?
“There are public buildings which provide free access to online information.”
But many of them are closing down; or have limited access; or are two bus journeys away.
Women struggle daily to juggle work, family life and social responsibility. They need to gather information from one place. Where is more useful than a local newspaper, actually based in the local community, which gives details of:
- Local news
- Upcoming events and activities
- Local Authority updates
- Local businesses
- Support services
- GP and dental information
to name but a few.
The local press is an invaluable resource in many communities.
- It provides local, relevant information.
- It is low cost in relation to social media.
- Older women view it as a lifeline to their area.
Local papers can also prove to be a lifeline for newcomers, introducing them to their local community. They help those without local family connections find out about local services, tap into local community events, leading to better social integration.
They also act as an outlet for groups and organisations, from both within and outwith the community, to post information about what’s happening.
A good local paper is where women will first find out about controversial plans that impact largely on women – school closures, changes to hospital and health services, the axing of vital public transport links. And a good local paper will co-ordinate campaigns for the benefit of its local community.
Women can also find out about support groups for those affected by domestic abuse, for those with caring responsibilities or specific conditions or circumstances.
But relationship of trust is important. And if the local paper is no longer based in the local community it serves, that will impact on its relationship with the community.
Women have limited time to search for local information. They don’t want to have to troll through websites to find out the local cinema timings or when the school holidays finish. Why, when for under £1, it can be accessed from a local newspaper. The information will be researched, written and presented in a way that is understood by the reader. It will have a local perspective and be relateable.
So before you say “local newspapers have had their day”, think again about the links, support and community they provide – as well as supporting the local economy.
(The Scottish Women’s Convention (SWC) is funded to engage with women throughout Scotland in order that their views might influence public policy. The SWC uses the views of women to respond to a variety of Parliamentary, Governmental and organisational consultation papers at both a Scottish and UK level.
The SWC engages with women using numerous communication channels including roadshow and roundtable events, thematic conferences and regional contact groups. Their views, issues and concerns inform the SWC’s work.)