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Local News Plans: Folkestone v1

The Folkestone Local News Plan meeting took place at the end of September.
We’ve distilled the discussions into the report and description below, which was first shared with the participants themselves for feedback and input, and which is the starting point for the actual Local News Plan
We would again like to thank everyone who participated in the process of getting us to this point: our tireless and resourceful steward Audrey Green Oakes, our incredibly gracious and generous hosts at Creative Folkestone, our funders at NewsNow, and above all, the people from across Folkestone and neighbouring areas who so kindly gave up a morning of their time.

We welcome any and all feedback on the process and v1 of the Plan below.


People in the Folkestone, Hythe and Romney Marsh area have a healthy appetite for local news. They want to see local news that speaks to and for every part of the community – young and old; newcomers and long-term residents; towns and villages. At the same time, people want local news to create a shared forum in which everyone can find out what’s happening, and which doesn’t put people into separate siloes. In our Local News Plan workshop, a vision began to emerge of a local news ‘ecosystem’, in which niche outlets and community reporters could work alongside professional journalists to tell the stories of all the communities of Folkestone and the surrounding areas. 


The Local News Plan workshop was held at the Quarterhouse in Folkestone on the morning of Thursday 29 September 2022. 29 people from a wide cross-section of the local community attended the workshop. Not everyone was able to stay for the full event, but most were there throughout.

We began by inviting participants to introduce themselves to each other in small groups, and to tell each other about their earliest memories of local news. This broke the ice, and when people shared their feedback with the whole group, we heard several examples of people whose childhood achievements were featured in the local paper. We reflected on the role that local news media can play in charting people’s lives.

We then worked through a series of exercises, first looking at the present state of local news in Folkestone and Hythe district, then imagining a positive future for local news in the area, and finally making commitments towards this vision.

The present state of local news in Folkestone, Hythe and Romney Marsh

In this section, participants were asked to work in small groups on three questions:

  • What do you like about local news in your area?

  • What’s not working for you?

  • What’s missing?


Each group generated lots of answers to these questions and were then asked to write one answer to each question on a post-it note.

Participants clearly appreciated the local news that is currently provided, whether by new independent publications such as the Folkestone Foghorn or by reporters within legacy outlets such as Rhys Griffiths at the Folkestone & Hythe Express.


When participants talked about what isn’t working for them or is missing from the current provision, several themes began to emerge:

  • Local news is not reaching everyone in the community and is in particular failing to engage young people 

  • Local news is also failing to represent older people in a positive way

  • There is a lack of diversity in the places, people and topics in local news

  • Some local news outlets may serve as ‘propaganda’ for their owners or advertisers

  • There is no single source of news published from within the community that is shared by everyone


The future of local news in Folkestone, Hythe and Romney Marsh


In the next section, we asked participants to imagine a future in which local news provision has significantly improved. For this exercise, the participants were asked to work in four groups on the following questions about local news in 2025:

  • What stories are being told by local news in 2025?

  • Whose voices are being heard in local news in 2025?

  • How is local news in 2025 improving your life?

  • How is local news in 2025 improving Folkestone?


The four groups approached this task in different ways, but we can see some common themes in their ideas.

  • All groups called for greater diversity in the stories and voices that are heard in local news

  • All groups were excited about the potential for multiple media formats to play a part in local news provision, including print and digital text-based reporting, podcasting, virtual reality, radio and video

  • All groups spoke about the role that local news can play in building community cohesion, including with diverse, disadvantaged and faith communities

  • Several groups wanted to see more positive stories about their local area – though not at the expense of the ‘watchdog’ role of journalism

  • Several groups spoke about the importance of professional journalism standards, to separate facts and truth from comment and opinion

  • Several groups wanted to see more embedded community reporters – e.g., a trained member of the public in every village

  • Several groups spoke about the need to aggregate all sources of news, so that everyone in the community can share in the same news diet, and can see ‘what’s going on across the community’, rather than being siloed

  • Some groups emphasised the importance of journalistic independence from owners, funders or advertisers in the local community

  • Some groups were keen to see local news providers make greater use of data to report on, e.g., health and income inequality in the local area

  • Some groups wanted to explore new funding models, including crowdfunding 

  • Some groups spoke about the role of local news in accountability for powerful local bodies – e.g., the council or local philanthropists

  • One group stressed the important role of local news media in building and storing the collective memory of the place as both former residents return and as new residents join the community

  • One group mentioned the role that local news can play in creating jobs and skills.



In the final part of the morning, we asked participants what they could do to advance their vision for the future of local news in their area. We heard commitments ranging from ‘Helping to build branding for Folkestone media’ to ‘Make a contribution if I want something to happen’. Many participants pledged to support existing local media outlets.

And finally, we asked participants to place themselves on a spectrum of optimism, where the people at one end of the spectrum were very optimistic about the future of local news in Folkestone, and the people at the other end were very pessimistic. The vast majority of the group placed themselves on the optimistic side of the spectrum.

Next Steps

The Public Interest News Foundation (PINF) would like to build on the exciting vision that emerged at the workshop. With further funding, we could bring local news innovators together with donors and investors to develop a sustainable ecosystem for local news. We could also continue the conversations that began at the workshop, to make sure local news is meeting the needs of the local community.

NewsNow generously provided the funding for this project.

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