Community organisation Loch of Shining Waters (LoSW) has joined the Independent Community News Network (ICNN) the UK representative body for the independent community and hyperlocal news sector, established by Cardiff University in Wales.

As part of the ongoing development of LoSW, volunteers have been engaging with and following the progress of Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism (C4CJ) as they develop a UK wide strategy and support network for community news organisations, sometimes termed as ‘hyperlocals’.

The term ‘Hyperlocal’ originated from the US and describes a form of online local news and information service which is usually independent from large media owners.

Research conducted by C4CJ in collaboration with Birmingham City University, Talk About Local and OFCOM into UK Hyperlocal markets found:

  • The UK community news sector is well-established, and dominated by players who have achieved a degree of longevity (nearly three quarters have been producing news for over three years, and nearly a third for more than five years).
  • Seven out of ten producers see what they do as a form of active community participation, over half see it as local journalism, and over half as an expression of active citizenship.
  • Community news sites cover a wide variety of local news of both civic and cultural value, including news about local community groups and events, and local government issues (particularly planning).
  • Nearly three quarters of respondents have covered local campaigns instigated by others, and well over a third have instigated their own. Issues relate mostly to planning disputes, cuts to local public services, improvements to local amenities, and local council accountability.
  • Despite lacking institutional and professional support, a significant minority have also carried out local watchdog investigative journalism.

Dr Andy Williams (Cardiff University School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies) says:

“I believe that our combined knowledge about the mainstream traditional, and emergent community news sectors allows us to see local news in the UK as a public good: something that society needs, but which the market can no longer provide in sufficient quality or quantity. This logic arguably underpins existing public subsidy to local newspaper groups, but we have a paradoxical situation where our local news policy currently protects entrenched, declining interests, while not supporting new, emergent players no matter how beneficial they are to the communities they serve.

I think that to support and foster local news as a public good in the 21st Century we will need a re-evaluation of local news policies to encourage newer entrants to the market, to foster experimentation with different funding models, and stimulate independent, plural and truly local news in print and online.”

On the back of the research, C4CJ has been progressing the Hyperlocal news sector by establishing the Independent Community News Network (ICNN) which is the UK representative body for the independent community and hyperlocal news sector.

There is over 400 independent community news and hyperlocals across the UK. In Scotland it remains a relatively small sector with only 13 hyperlocals identified by C4CJ. Loch of Shining Waters is the only hyperlocal registered in the Fife region.

The ICNN “exist to promote the interests of community and hyperlocal publishers and to champion new sustainable forms of local digital and print journalism. Our focus is at the local and hyperlocal level; the place where journalism is most valued, but also most at risk.”

One part of the mission by the ICNN is to attain recognition and accreditation for the valuable contribution hyperlocals provide to their respective communities and to the democratic process, including advancing the case for strong community journalism. This will take shape through lobbying, advocacy, training, networking, research and monitoring.

As part of Shining Waters membership to the ICNN the following procedures have been added or updated:

LoSW chair Terry McLean says:

“Established in 2010 our volunteers continue to work hard investigating local issues to help improve local accountability and transparency in the Lochgelly area and across Central Fife. We continue to seek ways to improve our work, seek better representation, and become more transparent and accountable. By joining the ICNN we now adhere to very strict guidelines and have a representative body that will look after our interests and the interests of our volunteers whenever policies are being created by the UK Government that will affect our sector.

The formation of ICNN is official recognition of the growth and professionalism of the hyperlocal sector that Shining Waters operates within, as it is a sector that provides a valuable contribution to improve local democracy. We are fully supportive of the main objectives of the ICNN, and look forward to continue to work with the ICNN to help them achieve their goals to improve and support the hyperlocal sector.”

For further details about the ICNN or C4CJ please visit their websites:

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