Tag Archives: LNPT

Alternative funding models

There’s been a lot of talk about money since we started Local News Port Talbot – or, more specifically – how to get some.

We’ve knocked on a few doors for more traditional kinds of funding, including grant funding like the Big Lottery Fund. No luck there, so far. We’ve hinted broadly to anybody who’ll listen that we’re open to donations by generous philanthropists. Again, nothing doing. Advertising hasn’t come knocking either. It’s looking increasingly like we’ll have to move the boulder by ourselves.

Martin Moore from the Media Standards Trust has been enthusing about alternative funding models for some time now, and we’ve got to the point where we’re starting to think he might actually have something.

One of the ideas he’s pushed our way is spot.us, an American website that offers a way for journalists to propose a story they’d like to cover, and give a price for carrying out the work – so-called community reporting. Members of the public can donate cash towards the total, and the story is written when the total is reached.

Another idea already popular with bloggers is Addiply, which facilitates all the messy back-end stuff of website advertising, like taking payments and uploading adverts.

There are plenty more, I’m sure – and I’ll no doubt blog them as I find them.

But all that talk has got me thinking. I’ve seen Local Exchange Trading Schemes (LETS) such as Severn LETS, a scheme that allows people to barter for goods and services using a local currency. It seems to me it’s about celebrating the skills of a community while keeping wealth in the local economy.

Those are the kinds of concepts we’ve been bandying about for a while in LNPT, and now I wonder whether a local news service could have a place in such a scheme. If there isn’t one in existence, perhaps we could even establish one.

Journalists reporting on council meetings in return for a basket of vegetables or a fancy haircut. Just imagine.

This may all sound confusing…

A home for research about local news in Port Talbot, yes, you read it right. Not just local news, not just Port Talbot, research about them. It’s altogether specialised, and it sounds more than a little bit confusing, but to me it makes perfect sense.

My name is Rachel Howells. I’m studying a PhD at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism and my topic is local news and democracy. I’m funded by KESS, which is a European grant distributed by the Welsh Assembly Government. I am co-funded by an industry partner – The Media Standards Trust.

I’ve chosen to focus my research on the South Wales town of Port Talbot.

About Port Talbot

The population of Port Talbot is around 35,000 and it is the most polluted town in Wales due to the large concentration of heavy industry – the town is famous for its steelworks. It is also famous for turning out some of Hollywood’s finest: Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins and Michael Sheen all come from here.

Until 2009, there was a thriving weekly newspaper in Port Talbot. The Port Talbot Guardian had been printing since 1927. It was owned by the Trinity Mirror Group, who took the decision to close the PT Guardian, along with its sister title, the Neath Guardian, which served a neighbouring town.

A third title, the South Wales Evening Post, is based 10 miles away in Swansea. There is a Neath Port Talbot edition of the Evening Post every day, but this is generally limited to two or three pages of news about the area. There is also a weekly pull-out section inside the Evening Post, called The Courier, which is often four pages long. The Port Talbot correspondent at the Evening Post is based in their Swansea offices.

Since the PT Guardian closed down, there have been no working journalists based in the town. The suspicion is that stories about Port Talbot are no longer making it into the other media that ostensibly cover the area, simply because there is no local newspaper picking up on them in the first place. There is also an argument that the diversity of news coverage is impoverished because fewer journalists are covering stories, asking questions and putting politicians, businesses and other public organisations under scrutiny.

About my research

My research will attempt to measure how Port Talbot was served by local news in past times. It will also aim to discover how Port Talbot is served now, since the closure of the Port Talbot Guardian. It will survey local residents to discover how they consume news, and how they would like to consume news if they had a choice. And it will interview current news providers to assess how they see the  coverage of Port Talbot.

All of this, in the end, will go towards forming a picture of one town’s experience of a very modern problem – the crisis in print news – and will, hopefully, shed some light on how that affects the town’s relationship with democracy and civic engagement.

Why the blog?

So, now you know why the research is happening. What about the blog? Well, the reason I’ve started this blog is certainly related to the PhD, but it’s also for a related project I’m working on, Local News Port Talbot, which is a hyperlocal news site for Port Talbot.

I want to complement what’s already being done on this site – http://www.lnpt.org – which has been set up by a group of professional journalists that is trying to tackle the news shortage in Port Talbot (I am one of these journalists).

Essentially I’m looking for a place to host news feeds and Twitter feeds about Port Talbot. So this is a place for me to learn, discuss (and probably break) techie stuff that I can utilise on the public-facing news site. It’s also somewhere for me to store all the good things I find online about hyperlocal news, media trends, blogging and Port Talbot.

This blog, really, is for myself. But if it becomes a useful place for other people as well, then that’s great.

If you’re interested in any of this, and would like to know more, please leave a comment.