Local journalism – alive, well and working at the nationals

The Brighton Future of News Group (#bfong) is a heartening place to spend some time for someone who trained on local newspapers and whose only early ambition was to land a job on one of the nationals.

The prevailing wisdom would have us believe that journalism is in a state of crisis, with old business models crashing down and traditional career paths wiped out by new technology and public indifference to local newspapers.

It’s hard to disagree with that. Local papers all over the country are in crisis and reporting jobs are as thin on the ground as they are poorly paid.

But the parochial romance of local journalism – the pride that young reporters take in being allowed into people’s lives at extraordinary times to find out how those lives are being affected – is alive and well. That’s if Josh Halliday (@joshhalliday) is any kind of measure.

Josh is a 22 year-old journalist who was on an NCTJ-accredited journalism course at Sunderland University just last year. He wasn’t satisfied by the amount of proper local journalism techniques taught on the course – most of his peers had no interest in pursuing careers in local media (and who can blame them, the state of the industry being what it is?)

So Josh started a news blog, called SR2 Blog, after the name of the Sunderland postcode it covered. The patch is just 1.5 square miles but Josh filled his blog with what he calls hyper-local news, gleaned by rolling up his sleeves and actually talking to people in the community.

At last night’s bfong meeting the delightfully self-effacing Josh enthused about the work he did in Sunderland and modestly outlined how the Guardian noticed his efforts. Unfortunately for local journalism, but very fortunately for Josh, the Guardian offered him a job as a trainee media and technology reporter, which he started just two weeks after finishing his course.

Without its dynamic creator, the SR2 Blog will now almost certainly wither away, more’s the pity, but I have no doubt that the Guardian is a richer place for Josh’s arrival.

What really struck me about Josh was his answer to one of last night’s questions: where do you see yourself in five years? After some thought he said he could think of nothing better than to be working on a local newspaper as a news reporter. At the time I wondered if he’d really thought this through, or whether he was perhaps being a bit disingenuous, or that perhaps he had rather limited ambition. But I think these thoughts did him a disservice. I think he really meant it – and that gives me great hope for the future of local news media.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 at 9:43 am and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Local journalism – alive, well and working at the nationals”

  1. […] Local journalism – alive, well and working at the nationals by Martin Thomas […]


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