The regional newspaper crisis ‘has to rise up the political agenda’, culture secretary Andy Burnham said today – but he said state subsidy was “antithetical” to newspapers.
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The secretary of state for culture, media, and sport also revealed his first job after university was at his local paper – unpaid.
Burnham said local papers were essential both for local democracy, and as training grounds for journalists.
“I would like to signal today that the provision of local news – and the plight of local newspapers – has to rise up the political agenda,” he said at the Oxford Media Convention.
“It is time to develop a sensible strategy that uses the converging nature of journalism to sustain a vital local media.”
Burnham said there was potential for local partnerships between local media, private sector partners, and – with safeguards – the public sector, including regional development agencies.
But he said direct subsidy, proposed my MPs in parliament this week, was “antithetical to the culture of local newspapers”.
“I don’t think people would want that,” he said. “It doesn’t go with the lifeblood of newspapers. Having said that, there are ways [local media] can be supported.”
Burnham stressed local media’s role as a training ground – and said the culture of unpaid internships, and nepotism-based work experience, must end.
“When I left university in 1991, in the last economic difficulty, I wanted a job in the media and sent my CV to loads of organisations in London,” he said in the question and answer session that followed his keynote speech.
“I got nowhere – and I had no chance of staying in the North West and doing those jobs.”
He said he worked unpaid at his local paper, and added: “I don’t know whether the NUJ would approve of that or not.”