By Rob Wells, The Linc
Speaking at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) annual conference last week, Prof. Chiddick said that local media was important in informing the local community. “The only place local people get any insight into what their local university can do is through their local papers,” he said.
He stressed that “it’s not just a matter of influencing the local population, but ensuring that there is the ability to debate issues locally,” echoing the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, who wrote that “democracy without the scrutiny of good journalism is unthinkable.”
The city’s local newspaper, the Lincolnshire Echo, is owned by Northcliffe – the local newspaper subsidiary of the Daily Mail and General Trust. DMGT recently announced that it will cut 1,000 jobs this year from the division, dropping from 4,500 full-time staff to 3,500 by Christmas.
Locally, Northcliffe plans to move subeditors (who check stories for mistakes) from newspapers including the Echo to a regional ‘hub’ in Hull, which will start work in May. Up to 50 such jobs at nearby newspapers are at risk of being cut as a result.
Local newspapers have suffered from a fall in income from advertising, particularly from once-lucrative property, car, and job adverts. DMGT said that Northcliffe’s advertising revenues were down about 37% in the first three months of 2009, compared to the same period in 2008.
Some universities in the United States have already become involved with their local press, with a partnership between the University of Minnesota and two local newspapers receiving over £160,000 ($238,000) from the state government.
Combined with funds from the university and the newspapers, the Duluth News Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, there will be about £472,000 ($700,000) available to retrain staff and look for new ways to deliver news and advertising.
Prof. Chiddick, due to retire from his post at the end of December, recently told The Linc that he was “philosophically opposed” to tuition fee increases. He suggests increasing income from overseas students, who pay up to three times as much as UK students. Two thirds of university vice-chancellors said they needed to raise fees, with over half wanting students to pay at least £5,000 per year, according to the BBC.
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