See you in a week!
On the local journalism revolution — and why we're not publishing for seven days
Good morning — we hope you’ve got some eggs cooking, or some tofu scrambling, if that’s more your scene. Maybe you’ve put the perfect soundtrack on for a Sunday horizontal on your sofa: it’s hard to go far wrong with Astral Weeks.
As Victoria mentioned last Monday, we’re going to be taking a summer break this week. One, it’s a quiet time of year and two, we’ll soon be making a big announcement about the future of our company so we need a bit of time to prepare that. We’ll still be working on stories though, so the break will give us the chance to work on some bigger investigations as well. As always, if you want to tip us off about anything, hit reply to this newsletter or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have to keep tight lipped for the time being, but the announcement has been in the pipeline for a matter of months now. Amid an unrelentingly gloomy picture for local newspapers in the UK, we believe this isn’t just a ray of light, it’s something that will help us on our mission to revolutionise regional journalism in the UK. The overwhelming direction of travel for the industry over the last 20 years has been one of decline, with huge cuts in the numbers of journalists working on local titles having a massive impact on the quality of reporting they are able to put out.
It sometimes seems that the cuts will never end. In just the last few weeks, National World (the company which owns The Star and the Sheffield Telegraph) and Reach (who own Yorkshire Live) have announced new waves of redundancies. Press Gazette reported recently that since David Montgomery bought National World on New Year’s Eve 2020, the company had shed a quarter of its staff, despite the veteran newspaper man promising to reinvest in its titles.
And if that wasn’t all bad enough, National World announced earlier this month that they would be using Artificial Intelligence to produce some of their papers. After years of cutting journalists, they now believe newspapers can be produced with no human input at all. As a result of the relentless cuts, many of my friends and former colleagues have now left the industry for good. All because the big local publishing companies are obsessed with a failed model of chasing clicks with cheap journalism and celebrity tittle-tattle.
Why all this is happening is no secret. A recent report by Enders Analysis laid bare the challenges facing the local news industry. In the last 20 years, the industry has lost £2 billion in advertising revenue to companies like Google, Facebook, eBay, Rightmove and AutoTrader. This is the reason that local newspapers have lost so many staff over the last two decades: the industry simply no longer makes enough money to pay for them.
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the only way to put journalism on a sustainable footing is to get people to pay. Most quality national titles like The Times and the FT now do that, and have been able to expand their reporting teams as a result. But until The Tribune and its sister titles in Manchester and Liverpool came along, that model hadn’t really been tried in the regional media.
It was a leap in the dark when I left my job at The Star to set up The Tribune in 2021. But the report provides some of the best evidence so far that it was the right decision. It says The Mill and its sisters titles, with their focus on “exceptional quality” and a “deep and trusted relationships” with their readers, have provided a possible future for an industry that could otherwise have died out.
However, in order to do that we need your help. We now have more than 1,500 paying members but in truth we need a lot more if we are to replace what has been lost over the last 20 years. If you are able, please consider becoming a member of The Tribune today. It costs just £7 a month or £70 a year if you pay up front — the equivalent of £1.34 a week or just 23p a day.
Editor, The Tribune