Could co-operatives be answer to delivering local news content?

LOCAL content delivery is high on the agenda for many media organisation in Scotland and the UK, at least those most switched on to the changing face of news.

Broadcaster STV, newspapers the Glasgow Evening Times and the beatblogging Guardian among the first few grasping the concept early on.

But it is in America where various projects have taken the biggest strides.

The one that really caught my eye, however, was in Chicago which has witnessed the birth of a cross platform heavyweight.

The Chicago News Co-Operative, part funded by public television money, is set up to deliver content from its patch to other outlets.

The local public radio station WBEZ is also in talks to help finance the venture.

From next month it will provide two pages of local news for the Chicago pages of the New York Times on a Friday and Sunday.

The live date is pencilled in for November 20.

Web content for the Chicago Scoop is also on the agenda, with the hope being members will pay a subscription top access the content.

Initially it will be not-for-profit until changes in tax laws early in the new year which will allow the body to start making money.

It hopes to be in the black within five years.

But could this so called public service journalism work here?

The Press Association clearly thinks so with its claim earlier this year that it plans to put reporters in every courthouse and council meeting in the land.

The Guardian clearly thinks so, with the launch of its Beatbloggers in strategic cities including Edinburgh in the New Year.

And broadcasters such as STV clearly think so, given their willingness to look at public financed collaborations.

Given my current media consultancy work with one well known news agency, let me make it clear, this blog serves to air only my thoughts on media, no-one else's.

But it strikes me that Scotland is already well served with individual freelancers and news agencies the length and breadth of the country – but none of them is financed by the kind of public cash that could be made available.

Each is looking to deliver profit for their own means.

But what if they were as members to amalgamate their content onto a single body funded with public cash and supported by the industry itself.

Truly local news content, to national standards, with photography and video rolled out to boot.

A co-operative of Scottish news providers, essentially, one which the industry would be invited to subscribe to in order to cherry pick the content they wanted to push to their own readers in print, web and mobile.

The Scottish Press as it stands is contracting in numbers. They have decided they can no longer justify the headcount which once ensured there was a district office north, east, south and west.

At least, not when the internet means they can have a freelance or citizen journalist deliver pretty much the same story at a fraction of the cost.

All this leaves a vacuum.

Maybe, just maybe, such a co-operative could be just the thing to fill it.

Categories: Media philosophy & trends

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