Research Question

The importance of strong regional journalism

How can we fill the ever widening, regional investigative news gap in Broadcast Journalism?

The publication of Flat Earth News (Davies 2008) gave voice to a long held concern over the impoverished state of UK investigative journalism, but little attention has been focused specifically on the perilous state of regional broadcast journalism. There was a de-investment in broadcast news and current affairs across the BBC, ITV and Channels 4 and 5 amounting to a 13.5% reduction in the four years leading up to the period which this case study covers (OFCOM, 2009). The extent to which time and resources are allocated to pursue stories beyond the headlines and dig up fresh facts and new lines and is under consistent pressure.

By looking at this single narrative arc treating the Lakanal House fire over 4 years, I was able to demonstrate through practice how Broadcast Journalists might maximise the use of new digital enabled processes and tools to combat what Nick Davies (2008) suggests has become, “a profession corrupted to the core,” and adopt new strategies to ensure the continued survival of original investigative output in regional journalism.

Before the onset of an ever-expanding digital broadcast eco-system, analogue scarcity helped preserve the funding for the regional ITV news model, yet regional commercial channels have effectively vacated political and economic current affairs journalism at the local level that has become increasingly the preserve of the BBC. (Barnett & Seymour, 1999) With the introduction of a new digital spectrum financial resources from advertising revenues have become more difficult to secure; the result weakening coverage. But it remains the case that quality journalism costs money because it requires devoted resources. In a resource starved environment, sustained investigative reporting is one of the first things to suffer.

Networked journalists are no longer just gatekeepers but also facilitators.
Earlier studies clearly identify a shift in how social media and user-generated content has moved increasingly centre stage; influencing the practice of journalism and the strategic direction of the traditional news providers like the BBC. (Newman, 2009)

The issue for journalists is this.  Can they (and will they) successfully harvest this crop of new user-generated information. Beckett has written that, “In a world of ever-increasing media manipulation by government and business, it is even more important for investigative journalists to use technology and connectivity to reveal hidden truths. (Beckett, 2008)

“Networks have always been important to journalists, but in a networked age they are more important than ever…more importantly, there are informed groups and expert individuals accessible too.” (Bradshaw, 2012)

September 2017

“I am extremely grateful to be able to use the Lakanal Fire footage courtesy of Nigel Saunders and Paul Wood.

All the fire footage of the Lakanal House fire is their copyright.

All other material is BBC Copyright and available through public access online or through the 'box of broadcasts' portal.”

Professor Kurt Barling - 2017