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An investigation into hyperlocal journalism in the UK and how it creates value for citizens

Harte, David 2017. An investigation into hyperlocal journalism in the UK and how it creates value for citizens. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Since the early 2000s, a largely Internet-based network of independent news operations has emerged focused on small geographic areas in the UK, often run by non-professional journalists. ‘Hyperlocal’ journalism seems to have captured the imagination of academics and policy-makers, with some arguing that it has the potential to fill the democratic deficit caused by the decline of mainstream local newspapers. Attention has largely focused on the journalistic values of these websites rather than their wider cultural value, with relatively little recourse to primary research in the UK context. This thesis addresses both of those aspects by drawing on a range of data: a large-scale overview of the sector, three case study accounts of hyperlocal news operations, and an analysis of interviews with practitioners. The research finds that hyperlocal news operations are spread across the UK and collectively produce an impressive number of news stories. In that sense, they play a useful role in local news ecologies and their independence marks them out as an alternative to an increasingly consolidated mainstream local news sector. Hyperlocal news operations are gaining legitimacy through engagement with audiences on social media and through recognition by other news media. The thesis also finds that the hyperlocal journalist is often motivated by a desire to redress mainstream media’s representation of their locality or by a single campaign issue. Hyperlocal journalists traverse both the digital ‘beat’ and the real-world ‘beat’, using reciprocal journalism practices in order to build a community around their service. However, many services are precariously placed as the journalists exploit their own labour and avoid engaging fully with issues of economic sustainability. Taking a case study approach, the thesis explores the working practices and environments of three hyperlocal news operations in detail, including looking at audience engagement. It finds further evidence of these issues of precarity, making the potential of sustaining hyperlocal operations difficult. However, the case study accounts also highlight the value of focusing on everyday aspects of community life and how that can help build audiences and enable citizens to become participants in content creation and distribution. Finally, the thesis argues that hyperlocal can play a more vital role in the UK’s local news landscape should the right conditions be created by policy-makers to create a more level regulatory playing-field.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 24 May 2017
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 09:50

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