Roy Greenslade's article ('Growing opposition to council-run papers' posted 17 March 2009) misses the point. Council-run newspapers fulfil an important democratic function – they give their residents a chance to find out what their council is doing with their money. Local councils deliver over 800 services from adoption services to fixing zebra crossings. The biggest challenge for councils is bridging the gap between service satisfaction and the council ie residents are more satisfied with the service they receive but when asked about what they think about the council overall they're less satisfied. This was the main reason for the Local Government Association's reputation campaign and one of their recommended actions is for councils to produce a regular magazine/newspaper.
The problem with a lot of local/regional newspapers is that they are generally owned by larger multinational corporations (take Ganett which owns Newsquest for example) so the money spent on these newspapers don't actually remain in the local economy, but go back to the parent company which is generally in another part of the country or in another country. Whereas council-run newspapers actually help the local economy because the money invested in the publication stays local.
However, it is vital for local democracy and accountability that local/regional media are supported as much as possible. This means councils should invest in their local media – both in terms of advertising and supplying newsworthy copy – to help them remain an important feature in promoting local democracy.
And there is nothing wrong with an independent and impartial media outlet holding the council to account – it helps local government to sharpen its policies and gives the public another channel to voice their concerns.
To view the article visit http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2009/mar/17/local-newspapers-freesheets