Please don’t forget independent local news when offering support, Michelle

Michelle Donelan MP Image: David Woolfall (via CC by 3.0)
Michelle Donelan MP Image: David Woolfall (via CC by 3.0)

Genuine local news is facing unprecedented challenges as we head into yet another crisis that is, once again, out of our control.

But, we consistently get up, dust ourselves off, and continue, because delivering the news for Bedford is what we’re committed to doing.

It’s been four years since the Bedford Independent was first published and after the impact of Brexit, then COVID, and now the cost of living crisis, we do often wonder when things might start looking up.

Advertising budgets are shrinking and people are shopping less, but our readership remains strong, with an average of 130,000 readers reading almost half a million pages on our website each month.

We must be doing something right.

When we started the Bedford Independent we had one strapline for everything we wanted to achieve. Genuine fact-checked local news, without opinion, by Bedford people for Bedford people.

Read: Our editorial mission

Champion of journalism

Everyone here is proud to have never faltered from that. We have stayed true to our word from day one.

Unlike the marketing magazines that claim to be publishing news, we rewrite all media releases sent to us (adding additional information or balance when needed), we are also regulated and transparent.

Searching through the almost 6,000 articles we’ve written since our website launch in November 2018, you won’t find us trying to sway opinion with a hidden agenda behind our words.

It’s this journalism that we hope Michelle Donelan, the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), is talking about when she says she is “going to be a champion of journalism” in every way she can.

As part of Journalism Matters Week last month, Ms Donelan wrote, “without publications like the one you are reading right now, we would not be able to hold the people in power to account – including, of course, politicians like me.

“These local newspapers act as our neighbourhood watch. They have their ear to the ground of their communities — holding local public services’ feet to the fire, monitoring what is happening in the local courts and providing a valuable platform for causes and community groups.”

Newspapers, even if they’re online, like the Bedford Independent.

Of course, there are other genuine news titles in the area and whether we agree with the way they cover our area or not, we support their teams wholeheartedly.

They too struggle, but much of their struggle is due to poor management decisions.

Bean counters and executives mean the one in print is barely delivered to any homes in the borough, and the other online publication is more about celebrity news and weather warnings than genuine local news.

These publications also need to be supported, but the support must be appropriate.

Proportionate support

(l-r) David Higgerson, Reach and Paul Hutchinson, Bedford Independent giving evidence and the DCMS enquiry into the sustainability of local journalism.
(l-r) David Higgerson, Reach and Paul Hutchinson, Bedford Independent giving evidence and the DCMS enquiry into the sustainability of local journalism.

We are delighted that the culture secretary has said she will be a journalism champion and recognises the part we play in our local community. We hope this will change things as, sadly, the support offered so far is disproportionate.

NationalWorld and Reach, who own the only other two news publications covering Bedford Borough, have received £millions in grants from tech giants and £millions more of public funding through government advertising.

The Bedford Independent is the most widely read publication in the Borough yet it’s the most underfunded.

Representing independent publications everywhere, when giving evidence to the DCMS on the sustainability of local journalism in the summer, we said that it’s time the smaller publishers and independents had a proportionate share of the funding and/or support that seems to flow only to the big players.

Ms Donelan is right when she says that supporting a newspaper is “supporting an institution that keeps this country running”, but more needs to be done and you can help too.

If you value what we do, if you too recognise the importance of genuine local news, make a small contribution at the link in the yellow box below, and pay what you feel we’re worth.

Just one £5 payment from every reader would keep us going for 10 years.

If you’re a business, look at where you spend your advertising budget and consider using some of it to put your brand in front of our readers – you’ll grow your business and help us at the same time, it’s a win/win.

Ms Donelan’s commitment to being a champion for journalism is a great start, maybe you could be a champion too?

Keep Local news Alive in Bedfordshire