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Is local journalism good for democracy?

We hope to see if engagement in local news impacts the numbers of people turning up to vote. Here's how to help us find out...

By Barnet Post 06 February 2022

Can you help us to find out if journalism is good for democracy? Can you help us to find out if journalism is good for democracy? 

Barnet Post received funding from the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF) to better understand the relationship between local democracy and local journalism. The fund aims to find out what is the true relationship between local journalism and democratic engagement? And how can we strengthen this relationship? Barnet Post received funding from the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF) to better understand the relationship between local democracy and local journalism. The fund aims to find out what is the true relationship between local journalism and democratic engagement? And how can we strengthen this relationship? 

Other researchers have looked at the relationship between journalism and democracy at a general level. In 2020, DCMS published research by Plum Consulting showing that increased local newspaper circulation leads to increased voter turnout. Other researchers have looked at the relationship between journalism and democracy at a general level. In 2020, DCMS published research by Plum Consulting showing that increased local newspaper circulation leads to increased voter turnout. 

This research inspired PINF to ask several important questions: If there’s a correlation between local news and voter turn out, then what drives this correlation? Do some forms of local journalism have a more democratic impact than others? This research inspired PINF to ask several important questions: If there’s a correlation between local news and voter turn out, then what drives this correlation? Do some forms of local journalism have a more democratic impact than others? 

With funding from the Neal & Dominique Gandhi Foundation, PINF set up the PINF Impact Fund to measure the impacts of voter local news and democratic engagement in London and Birmingham at the ward level. With funding from the Neal & Dominique Gandhi Foundation, PINF set up the PINF Impact Fund to measure the impacts of voter local news and democratic engagement in London and Birmingham at the ward level. 

There are 8,694 electoral wards in the UK, with an average population size of 5,500. Wards elect councillors, most of whom are members of political parties (unlike parish and town councillors, who aren’t usually party political). Ward elections can be the first rung on the ladder for the political leaders of the future, and local councillors are responsible for huge amounts of public spending. The City of Birmingham’s budget in 2021 was £3.2bn, for example. There are 8,694 electoral wards in the UK, with an average population size of 5,500. Wards elect councillors, most of whom are members of political parties (unlike parish and town councillors, who aren’t usually party political). Ward elections can be the first rung on the ladder for the political leaders of the future, and local councillors are responsible for huge amounts of public spending. The City of Birmingham’s budget in 2021 was £3.2bn, for example. 

Here in Barnet, Colindale had the lowest voter turnout (31.4%) in the London Borough of Barnet’s most recent local elections. As part of the research with PINF, we are hoping to engage residents in Colindale – now split into two new wards – in local journalism about the upcoming 2022 local elections. Here in Barnet, Colindale had the lowest voter turnout (31.4%) in the London Borough of Barnet’s most recent local elections. As part of the research with PINF, we are hoping to engage residents in Colindale – now split into two new wards – in local journalism about the upcoming 2022 local elections. 

In the lead up to the May local elections, we will be conducting focus groups with local people to better understand what you believe needs to be changed in Colindale. We want to know if you engage with your local councillor and, if not, why not? What issues are impacting you and your community? And how councillors can better support you? In the lead up to the May local elections, we will be conducting focus groups with local people to better understand what you believe needs to be changed in Colindale. We want to know if you engage with your local councillor and, if not, why not? What issues are impacting you and your community? And how councillors can better support you? 

We will be writing up your views into an article to be featured in Barnet Post which we will show to councillors who are up for election in the spring. We will be writing up your views into an article to be featured in Barnet Post which we will show to councillors who are up for election in the spring. 

To achieve this, we’re asking local people to really drive the news agenda and participate in local democracy. To achieve this, we’re asking local people to really drive the news agenda and participate in local democracy. 

After our engagement with people in Colindale, we’ll be making comparisons with neighbouring ward Burnt Oak which had a similarly low turnout in the last elections. By making the comparison we hope to see if engagement in local news impacts the numbers of people turning up to vote. After our engagement with people in Colindale, we’ll be making comparisons with neighbouring ward Burnt Oak which had a similarly low turnout in the last elections. By making the comparison we hope to see if engagement in local news impacts the numbers of people turning up to vote. 

If you would like to attend one of our focus groups, get in touch with [email protected] socialspider.com If you would like to attend one of our focus groups, get in touch with [email protected] socialspider.com 

You can also help the Public Interest News Foundation by filling in the following questionnaires, if you live in Colindale or Burnt Oak. Participants of each survey could win £250 to donate to a charity of your choice. You can also help the Public Interest News Foundation by filling in the following questionnaires, if you live in Colindale or Burnt Oak. Participants of each survey could win £250 to donate to a charity of your choice.