F0rmer local newspaper editor Neil Fowler has issued a challenge to Britain’s universities to save the local newspaper industry.
In a blog post he recommended a revolutionary new structure for the teaching of journalism at universities, advocating the creation of charitable news organisations, run by students and provided for by the university’s journalism department.
The aim would be to provide sustainable, low-cost way to provide education and industry experience.
Fowler was the Guardian research fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, and a former editor of the Toronto Sun and Lincolnshire Echo.
Writing for In Publishing he said: “The aim would be for it to be a model that others would be able to follow – either using existing resources from a media school – or as a way of encouraging the establishment of major news enterprises with achievable aspirations, genuine clout and run along community and not-for-profit lines.”
The training would be similar to that of nurses, with modules in the classroom followed by periods in the newsroom.
He blames the need for change in the industry on media giants Google and Facebook. This is a trend which has been highlighted by Press Gazette’s Duopoly campaign, which highlights concerns over the fact the pair take most UK digital advertising.
He said: “The likes of Google and Facebook have tightened their grip on advertising spends and the number of professional journalists continues to decline. In particular, the regional and local newspaper industry remains in crisis and the ramifications for local democracy and scrutiny and the generation of news is immense.”
The benefits of the system would be numerous, says Fowler.
The charitable nature of the proposed news organisations would allow them to receive grants from local businesses, as well as entitle them to tax benefits.
He wrote: “It would be funded after set-up by local advertising, donations, grants from foundations and possible circulation revenue. Most functions, apart from local editorial staff (and possibly advertising sales), could be outsourced.”