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Local News Plans: Newry

The Newry Local News Plan meeting took place in November 2022 at Ballybot House in Newry City Centre, where we were kindly being hosted by the Confederation of Community Groups.

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 like to thank our dedicated steward, Columba O'Hare, and the engaged and engaging group of funders and current and local politicians in Newry that he gathered for the meeting. 


The workshop was held at the Confederation of Community Groups, Ballybot House in Newry on the morning of Wednesday 30 November 2022. 36 people attended the workshop in total.

The workshop began with introductions from Sameer Padania and Columba O’Hare. We then invited participants to introduce themselves to each other at their tables, and to tell each other about their earliest memories of local news. Judging by the animated conversation and frequent laughter, this comprehensively 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. One person shared a story about how his parent would ask him and his brother to go and find out ‘the news on the street’.

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

Post-meeting developments: The meeting was the subject of an article by Local Democracy Reporter Donal McMahon. In January it was announced that the Newry Reporter was to close, after which it was acquired by National World. In February, the Newry Chamber of Commerce held a ‘Meet the Media’ meeting as a follow-up to the LNP meeting.


Subsequent feedback included, ‘We need an urgent campaign to boost our citizens’ access to local organs of all kinds’ and ‘Listening to views of others was refreshing, but only by working together can anything be achieved. First small step taken.’

The present state of local news

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

  1. What do you like about local news in your area?

  2. What’s not working for you?

  3. What’s missing?


Each group generated lots of answers to these questions which they documented on flip-chart paper, and were then asked to agree on the most important answer and to write this on a post-it note.


Participants appreciated the variety of local news that is currently provided, whether by publications old and newer such as the Newry Reporter, Newry Democrat, and Specific things that people liked about local news in Newry included:

  • Investigative journalism, and accountability

  • Coverage of local history, through stories and archive photographs

  • The accessibility and physical permanence of newspapers vs the complexity of access (for older people) and the risk of digital decay of online local news

  • Campaigns about local services/closures and appeals to help those in need

  • The promotion and coverage of local businesses and partnerships

  • Overall sense of community (someone noted that the papers are owned by families that live locally, and not outside)


When participants talked about what isn’t working for them in the current local news landscape in Newry, several themes began to emerge:

  • The failure of the funding mechanisms or models for local news – though many noted that they had not subscribed to a local paper for ~20 years, though they still bought occasional copies.

    • Post-workshop addition: The Newry Reporter’s owners, the Hodgett family, celebrated the paper’s 155th anniversary at Newry Chamber of Commerce on 21 December 2022, shortly after the LNP meeting - but on 11 January 2023, announced that it was due to close - which made national news. The UK regional chain National World, led by David Montgomery, which is expanding its portfolio in N Ireland, stepped in to acquire the Reporter, though all original staff are leaving.

  • Lack of staff, skills and recruitment, including in marketing and reaching audiences – a problem when there is also a technology and poverty barrier for some in accessing local media

  • Some felt that local news was too divisive – others felt it was not divisive, but that it was under-resourced and overworked, and could not cover all parts of the community equally

  • Some noted the lack of responsiveness of local officials and authorities, including to FOI requests

  • One group noted interference from advertisers – it was not clear if this was local government, businesses, health sector, or another advertiser

  • Disconnect between Newry and other parts of the same district – sometimes South Armagh left out as a region; little connection between media serving Newry and the other parts of the district

And in terms of what is missing, a couple of answers particularly stood out as common concerns:

  • The voice and engagement of young people in local media – not for want of trying, but – said one participant – perhaps because they’re being talked at [i.e. ‘young people are not reading news enough’] rather than involved substantively [i.e. ‘what do young people say they want and need in terms of news.’]

  • They wanted to see more of the kind of items that mark major moments of people’s lives and those of their children, such as births, confirmations, marriages and deaths


Between this session and the next, Sameer Padania invited Councillor Michael Savage, Chairman of the local council, to share a few thoughts with the other participants, given his background as a journalist, on the relationship between local media and the accountability of local government.

The future of local news

In the next section, we asked participants to imagine they were waking up on New Year’s Day in 2026, to find that local news provision has significantly improved. For this exercise, the participants were asked to work in 7 tables – slightly mixed from the previous session - on the following questions about local news in 2026:

  1. What stories are being told by local news in 2026?

  2. Whose voices are being heard in local news in 2026?

  3. How is local news in 2026 improving your life?

  4. How is local news in 2026 improving Newry?


And in response to a request, we added one further optional question:

  1. Where is the money for this coming from?


The seven groups approached this task in different ways (table 7 took a pessimistic view), but we can see some common themes in their ideas.

  • Most groups talked about trying to find new solutions to the funding problems facing local news, and which have been constraining their ability to do everything the community needs and wants – some suggested adding a charge to local rates, removing VAT on print and for publications, supporting social enterprise and non-profit forms of media, and support for a local fund by government, businesses and other funders (e.g., Lottery)

  • All groups talked about the need for a balance of stories and coverage between the ‘negative’ (as some characterised more investigative or accountability reporting – for which there was still overwhelming support) and the ‘positive’ (about the community and good things happening within it, including from the community and voluntary sector)

  • All groups wanted to see a varied diet of public interest journalism – from politics, local government and business, to sport, culture and health – and several mentioned environmental and climate issues as central to this

  • All groups were keen to see the life stories of locals reflected more within the local media as part of a broader sense of building a cohesive community and rooting people in the community, as the composition of Newry changes

  • Many also hoped for more ‘nostalgia’ content – archive material, such as photos or film, and parts of Newry’s past and heritage

  • Some also wanted to find ways to build a more structured relationship with the Newry diaspora, including prominent emigres like Pat Jennings – both in terms of seeing them as ambassadors and potential sources of funding, and as a way of engaging them and keeping them informed and connected

  • Some talked about the need to report on Newry’s place in the wider world – it was a hotspot of Brexit coverage, for example, as a border town with RoI.

  • Several groups spoke about their concerns about UGC (user-generated content), fake news, and the impact on younger residents

  • Some mentioned the role that local news can play in creating jobs and skills in the creative industries, but also in advertising green jobs, and in talking about the changing nature of work – remote, 4-day-week, etc



In the final part of the morning, we asked participants to discuss and write down what they could do to advance their vision for the future of local news – then we had a shared discussion over lunch.

The shared discussion centred on three areas:

  • Funding – concrete ways to try to improve the local funding situation for local media of all kinds, including

    • Building an independent fund for local news, into which different sources could pay, including philanthropy, business, individuals

    • Focus on the National Lottery to mirror its support for local civil society by helping it purchase a building that both houses, and is a long-term income generator and asset, for local media?

  • Collaboration

    • 12-month strategic plan for LNP, with regular roundtables?

    • Building more efficient ways for overworked local media to connect with and draw on local civil society, e.g., through regular meetings, a database of spokespersons, a shared calendar of events and so on

    • Ways to approach all local media in one go with stories that do not require exclusivity or source protection

    • Surveying local businesses on their relationship with local media – including on advertising spend online vs local media

    • Speak Newry Mourne and Down offered to support a consultation with their citizens’ panel on local needs/wants

  • Connection

    • Better networking among the many and diverse stakeholders at the meeting

    • Follow up with others not at the meeting

    • Bring PR companies to the table.

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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