Research on news deserts: Readers favour Facebook if local newspaper is weak

By Peter Bale


New Zealand and the U.K.


Coinciding with the release of the Reuters Institute report, the UK Charitable Journalism Project published a report that rather turned on its head the narrative many in local media would pitch: that they are more trustworthy than social media. It seems that as local newspapers cut back on offices and truly local reporting, readers are finding their news from groups on Facebook.

“In one example, the town of Trowbridge in Wiltshire has 44,000 residents — and more than 30,000 of them are in a single Facebook group,” The Guardian said in its coverage of the Charitable Journalism Project. You can download the report here.

The UK Charitable Journalism Project studied Facebook's trust factor compared to local media.
The UK Charitable Journalism Project studied Facebook's trust factor compared to local media.

The Charitable Journalism Project — funded by Luminate (which is part of the philanthropic work of EBay founder Pierre Omidyar) and the British social justice donor The Joseph Rountree Reform Trust — is promoting British versions of the much more common non-profit news organisation, especially in local reporting where for-profit newspapers have shrunk drastically.

“The catastrophic financial collapse of the local news industry over the last two decades has destroyed the business model of local newspapers,” according to the Charitable Journalism Project. “Although consumers sometimes described these Facebook groups using terms such as ‘toxic’ and ‘racist,’ many said they provided more up-to-the-minute information than their local newspaper,” The Guardian report concluded.

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About Peter Bale

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