The Media Minister John Whittingdale has said that it remains his “absolute priority” to support local news outlets amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Writing in an op-ed released by the News Media Association in recognition of Journalism Matters week, the former Culture Secretary said that the local media remained the “cornerstone of a rich and varied media landscape” that was respected around the world and that journalists had provided a vital service to the public during the pandemic.
He added: “The government recognises how much journalism matters to our country and democracy. This week we’ve published new research commissioned as part of our ongoing commitment to support the sustainability of the local and regional press.
“It shows why local news matters: voter turnout in local elections is higher in those areas with a greater local newspaper circulation, which shows the huge value of reliable sources of local information.
“With increased misinformation on social media, trusted journalism has been a fundamental source of clarity throughout the pandemic. More than 85 per cent of adults turned to traditional media as a source of information about coronavirus. And news organisations are more than four times as trusted for news and information about coronavirus than social media.”
Pointing to the role of the local media in helping to co-ordinate volunteering and neighbourhood efforts to ensure the vulnerable got the help that they needed during the pandemic, Whittingdale said that the industry would have a vital role to play in the nation’s recovery.
He added: “As we look to navigate our way through and recover from this crisis, newspapers will continue to fulfill their crucial role taking the pulse of the nation, reporting from the frontline and acting as the glue that binds our communities together.
“As the Minister with responsibility for the media it remains my absolute priority to do all I can to support local news outlets. They are the cornerstone of a rich and varied media landscape respected for its tenacity around the world.
“We are privileged to have so many high quality outlets and I urge people to recognise and support all that’s best about this valuable industry by making sure they back – and buy – their local papers.”