By Darby Fitzgerald
With newspapers closing their doors around the world, one university in the capital of Wales is stepping in to fill that void.
The Centre for Community Journalism is a part of Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. It was started in 2013 to explore and create sustainable models for local news.
“To us it is news or information for a relatively small geographic area or a community of interest,” said Emma Meese, the Centre Manager.
Meese said this investment in community news is important because of the United Kingdom’s changing media landscape.
“Local newspapers tend to be owned by a large media organization and because they are no longer profitable as they once were, they tend to be closed down,” said Meese. “That then leaves a democratic deficit.”
The Centre gives voice to the community by helping existing and new community news hubs. The staff helps to put together a team of people from the community to manage the news hub. Sometimes members have journalism experience, but others don’t. The Centre provides the team training, support, guidance and resources to start reporting.
The Centre has already set up three community news hubs from scratch and plans to set up 10 community news hubs in five years. The program also offers online courses to help communities around the world set up their own hubs. Meese said communities in Ukraine and Australia have taken the course and are taking steps to start their own news hubs.
The first step in starting a new group is to assess the area to see if there is a need and a want for it. A requirement for starting a group is that the area cannot already be serviced by another local news outlet. The team evaluates demographics and studies where people get their news. The Centre then holds a community meeting to facilitate the process of starting a new local news hub.
“We let them shape and decide what it’s going to be, what it’s going to look like, what area it’s going to cover,” Meese said. “That has to come from the community. We don’t drive that at all.”
The Centre has only started digital platforms for communities currently, but Meese said she is noticing a shift.
“There is a pattern emerging of those that start off digitally: they are moving back into print newspapers,” Meese said.