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  • Writer's pictureJoe Mitchell

First look! PINF's Local News Map pilot

In this blogpost, Deputy Director Joe Mitchell introduces our project to build a map of all professional local news outlets in the UK. Read on for a preview of the pilot map, to sign up for the official launch event in July, and to tell us about errors or missing outlets.

Why a map?


PINF’s vision is for everyone to benefit from public interest news that speaks to them, for them and with them.


We wanted to find out how well (or poorly) every community in the UK is currently provided with news, so that we can encourage philanthropists and policymakers to target their resources on the local areas of greatest need.


What the map shows


Your first view of the map is of the UK and the boundaries of local authority districts.

The districts are coloured according to the number of local news outlets that claim to cover them. The darker the blue, the more news outlets there are in that district.


You can filter this view by the type of media and/or whether the outlet is independently- or corporate-owned.


The map highlights areas that are news deserts or at risk of becoming news deserts. Those districts that appear white on the map have no dedicated outlet that covers solely that district (even if they are covered by a regional outlet).

When you select a district, you can see the locations of the newsrooms of the outlets that cover that district (or the registered legal address where we could not find a newsroom address). A list of ‘cards’ on the left-hand side will also show you the outlets in that district, with more information and links to their websites. Independent outlets are in blue, corporate outlets in orange.


Where a newsroom is not located in the area that it serves, you will see a dotted line to the location of the newsroom (or the registered address).


You’ll notice – via those dotted lines – that many newsrooms are not located within the area that they serve.


When you select an outlet, you will either see another dotted line to the location of its registered office address, or, if it is registered in the local authority district it serves, a note saying that it is owned locally.

How it works

We first had to decide what would be included as a news outlet on the local news map. Thanks to a useful discussion with our advisory group, which included representatives from both Australia’s Public Interest Journalism Initiative and the US State of Local News project, among others, we settled on the following. To be mapped, outlets must:

  • Be incorporated organisations (so this excludes voluntary or the smallest-sized outlets such as Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, most blogs and community magazines, too numerous for this pilot);

  • Have a principal purpose of the provision of local news;

  • Be recently updated.

We identified claimed coverage area by the title of the outlet and by any information as to the claimed coverage area on the outlet’s website.

We have included ‘regional’ outlets where their purpose is to cover several local districts, such as BBC local radio stations. We did not include national outlets, such as those covering the whole of Scotland, because it is the supply of public interest news about local issues – council decisions and community affairs around a town, city or rural area - that we’re interested in (and because we had to draw a line somewhere).

We identified office locations by information given on the outlet’s website, or the registered address via Companies House if we could not find an office address.


If you think we have got something wrong, please let us know using the form below.


The data


Significant thanks go to Max Roche, our researcher on this project for the entire first version of the database. Max built this database collating and de-duplicating existing lists of local news outlets, such as PINF’s own list of independent publishers developed for our Index report, and lists provided by corporate publishers, academics and Wikipedians. Additional thanks to Gordon Ramsay for sharing his most recent lists and to Simona Bisiani for an early round of corrections and clarifications.


We added to this the register of community radio stations and community television stations provided by Ofcom.


We then went through every outlet’s website to check which local authority districts the outlet claimed to cover. Where an outlet covers a smaller area (regularly the case with community radio stations) we have included it in the district that covers that area. We used tools like PressReader where we could not find a website for an outlet.


There is of course some subjectivity in the ‘principal purpose’ test – and we tried to err on the side of inclusion.

Regarding the filters, our definition of independent is <£2m, the same test we use for the Index report. Our categorisation by media-type was usually straightforward, but there were a number of outlets that we think still exist in print-only form (their online version having been subsumed into larger corporate websites), but without being on the ground in the area, it is hard to know for sure. Your corrections are welcome – see below.

What the map doesn’t show

The map does not (yet) show:

  • That an outlet truly covers the areas it claims to cover;

  • Any measure of the quality of news content;

  • The number of journalists employed to cover the area;

  • Unincorporated news outlets (e.g., Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, blogs or community magazines)

We recognise that this information would provide a richer picture of the state of local news provision. We would love to be able to develop the map in future, so that we can capture some of this information; and we are also open to working with partners who would like to capture these types of data and add them to the map.

Suggest a correction or comment


This is our first, pilot version of a local news map. As well as adding additional data fields such as those mentioned above, we are also keen to find the resources - or the institutional home - to keep the map updated on a rolling basis. If you can help, please get in touch.


For now, we have the budget for one round of corrections. You can use this form to report missing or false data. We also welcome questions and feedback via the same form.


We will be hosting an official launch in July (details below), please submit corrections by July 17th at the latest to make sure we can address them before the launch.


Analysis

Now we have the raw data, we can run analysis on correlations between the presence of local news outlets in an area and any other dataset at a local authority level.


For the launch next month, we’ll be looking at indices of deprivation and whether the numbers of local news outlets correlate with lower or higher deprivation, or not at all.


So far, we have mapped absolute data – not relative data. We are interested to see what happens when we look at the per capita number of outlets per local authority district. We aim to present that analysis at the launch too.


If you’d like to do your own analysis or you have hypotheses about the correlations between local news outlets and other characteristics of local areas, such as health or environmental data, please do get in touch.


Launch event


Do join us for the map’s official launch on Weds 19 July at 12pm, via Zoom.

We’ll be demo-ing the map with the most up-to-date data, presenting our first analysis of UK news deserts, and taking a look at the links between local news coverage and deprivation.

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