Wiltshire Publications

White Horse News marches on despite decline in local newspapers

A REVIEW into the future of British newspapers has been ordered by Prime Minister Theresa May, who has warned that the closure of hundreds of local papers is dangerous for democracy, fuels fake news and harms local communities.

The last decade has seen an alarming decline in local newspapers and over 40 were closed across the country just in 2017.

The White Horse News, though, continues to buck the trend as our circulation continues to grow – 10,000 copies are now delivered door-to-door every fortnight to Westbury and the surrounding villages – with a newspaper packed full of local Westbury news.

Theresa May said journalism “is a huge force for good. But in recent years – especially in local journalism – we’ve seen falling circulations, a hollowing-out of local newsrooms, and fears for the future sustainability of high quality journalism.”

A 2016 study found UK towns which had lost their local newspaper had suffered from a “democracy deficit” with reduced community engagement. The report said the loss of local journalism meant the pubic weren’t informed about local issues; local authorities weren’t scrutinised properly and there was a loss of community life.

Following the concerns shown for local newspapers by Theresa May, cllr Ian Cunningham, Mayor of Westbury said, “In Westbury we are lucky to have a local newspaper  that goes free to all homes and that, whilst funded by advertising, manages to publish a great deal of local news.

“Most people in the town will look here to find out what is happening and although social media has risen, there is still a strong feeling that if it isn’t in our local paper, the White Horse News, then it hasn’t happened.

“As a person involved in a numbers of local organisations (town council, governor at two schools, local festival, community area partnerships, PCC etc) I rely a great deal on the local paper to get out messages about what we are doing and to get feedback.

“Explaining what we are up to is so important when trying to engage and to get people to take an interest in “politics” in the broader sense; a good local paper that people want to read is a perfect vehicle for this.

“In fact, such is the take-up of our paper, that the town council has recently taken to producing its own newsletter as an insert in the paper – it saves us money and now that the paper is in full colour, we can publish more information in a digestible format.

“I certainly believe that the town and its politics would be less effective without the paper. I also feel that the independent nature of the paper also helps – some of the larger chains tend to carry less detailed local news and “lifestyle” content that is shared across titles. A proper local paper with local issues really helps to encourage residents to ‘take part.’”

Ian Drew, editor of White Horse News added, “The White Horse News remains an important part of community life for Westbury residents. Starting in 1991 and now reaching over 10,000 homes in Westbury and surrounding areas each fortnight, the paper is a family-run business with other titles in Melksham and Frome.

“Various community groups, charities and residents rely on a local paper to spread their message. The councils and representatives also use the space to connect with members of their districts and wards and campaigners use it to get themselves heard.

“Our aim is to cover as much as we can about life in Westbury. We try to pack the paper full of everything which is going on in the town.

“We get fantastic support from businesses in Westbury – it’s their advertising which makes the paper possible – and without them, there would be no White Horse News. We urge everyone locally to support them and hopefully together, the White Horse News has a long and flourishing future.”