Securing a future for local news in Port Talbot: Cardiff University supports community news service

By Hannah Scarbrough | 8th Dec 2014

Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism will be working with community news service Port Talbot Magnet over the next four years, as it aims to become more sustainable.

Port Talbot lost a major part of its provision of local news overnight when traditional weekly newspapers Port Talbot Guardian and Neath Guardian shuttered in 2009. A group of local former professional journalists came together to address this lack of news provision, and established the media co-operative, Port Talbot Magnet, with a website and social media channels.

The Carnegie UK Trust also supported the Port Talbot Magnet as one of the ‘Carnegie Partners’ in the Neighbourhood News project, a £50,000 funding competition developed to improve local news reporting. The Carnegie UK Trust has published its final report today on Neighbourhood News, which is available now. Port Talbot Magnet received £10,000 through this competition, which was used to launch a quarterly printed newspaper.

However, the Port Talbot Magnet is still run by a small group of volunteers and freelancers who fulfil a variety of roles: writing, editing, bookkeeping and even delivering newspapers to locations around the town.

Now with the help of Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism, the Magnet is seeking to become more sustainable. It aims to produce a more regular printed newspaper (boosting advertising sales) and to recruit volunteers from the local community to help run this vital news service. There will be a public meeting held on 27 January 2015 at The Centre, Baglan, to discuss plans for Port Talbot Magnet as it enters this next phase of development.

Rachel Howells is one of the founding directors of Port Talbot Magnet and a former Editor of Big Issue Cymru. Rachel is also examining the hyperlocal news sector in her PhD at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. Rachel said: “The Magnet grew from seven journalists wanting to establish a dedicated community news service for Port Talbot. The grant funding from the Carnegie Trust enabled us to establish a printed newspaper that is just for Port Talbot, serving a much greater audience because of the door-to-door distribution we do.

“But we still need to keep working to secure the future of local news in Port Talbot. That’s why we are very excited to work with the Centre for Community Journalism. We want to develop the website, increase the regularity of the newspaper and engage with more local people. We also hope our news service will complement and enhance traditional media, by offering another voice, and also by reporting grass roots stories that they might not have the resources to cover, improving the media landscape for everyone. ”

“This will be a great legacy of the Carnegie Trust’s investment and we look forward to working with the Centre for Community Journalism to continue our journey to sustainability.”

Douglas White, Head of Advocacy at the Carnegie UK Trust, said: “It has been great to work with Rachel and the team over the past two years and to have helped the Port Talbot Magnet move towards sustainability through their printed newspaper. We’re delighted that they are now working with the Centre for Community Journalism to help them complete their journey. “

“Our new report shows that in return for a small investment, the Port Talbot Magnet and our other Carnegie Partners provided good value for money, focussed on local issues and brought their communities together. Based on their experiences, we’ve recommended a package of support measures to help local news organisations across the UK to flourish and grow. “

Cardiff University launched the UK’s first academic Centre for Community Journalism in 2013. The Centre for Community Journalism researches into this growing sector and offers networking, information and training for community journalists. As one of Cardiff University’s flagship Engagement Projects, the Centre for Community Journalism aims to set up or improve ten community news services in Wales, including the Port Talbot Magnet. The University’s flagship engagement projects work with communities on issues such as tackling poverty, boosting the economy, and improving health, education and wellbeing.

Related links

Port Talbot Magnet

Centre for Community Journalism

School of Journalism, Media & Cultural Studies

Cardiff University Engagement Projects

Carnegie UK Trust: Neighbourhood News

 

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