Archant editors call for reader support to avoid ‘news desert’

Posted on: May 22, 2020 by admin

Regional publisher Archant led a unified call for readers’ support in editorials across its titles today warning of the ‘news desert’ that could befall if local journalism is not financially supported.

The editorial is part of a wider reader appeal initiated by the publisher in mid-March asking online readers to make a monthly, annual or one-time contribution to their work as advertising revenue and print sales are squeezed during the lockdown.

But the publisher ruled out at this stage going behind a paywall despite moves made by rival regional publisher Newsquest which earlier this month introduced subscriptions to its dailies and select weeklies.

Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News editor David Powles told the SoE: “Some have decided to go behind a paywall,  however we decided that, at this stage, a more subtle approach was called for and so far it seems to have worked really well and we are grateful for the support we’ve received.”

The East Anglian Daily Times and Ham & High were among titles carrying the message to readers which began by explaining the implications of a news desert, created “when a newspaper closes down and the community it served is suddenly left without a source of credible and comprehensive news and information”.

While cautioning readers of the loss of trusted journalism, the message also struck out against the loss of advertising revenue they say has been “hit by the tech giants, many of whom pay little or no tax here”.

In each piece Archant editors referenced the unique campaigns done by papers for their local communities. East Anglian Daily Times’ Brad Jones praised the Home But Not Alone initiative launched by the paper during the pandemic to create a local community support volunteer network.

The reader response, according to Steve Anglesey, digital content director for Archant East Anglia, is positive.

Anglesey told the SoE, “This is a crucial point in our history and we are pleased with how readers are responding – it shows how much we are valued as a trusted source of news and information in the communities we’re proud to serve.”

An example of the editorial appears on the Norwich Evening News site EDP24 here.