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The Pevensey Bay Journal (Monday 10 September) took a place at the high table of community journalism with representation at the Advisory Board for the Independent Community News Network at BBC Birmingham—Bay Life, 12 September 2018

Meeting takes place at BBC Birmingham in lee of decision by Google to support Centre for Community Journalism

The discussion, with video conferencing contributions from a number of publications in the country, saw web platforms and community newspapers from as far afield as Wales, Rochdale, Bristol, London, Lincolnshire and East Sussex linking together for the second meeting of ICNNUK Advisory Board.

The meeting took place in the lee of the decision by Google to support the Centre for Community Journalism with the development of a series of new tools to protect the interests of community journalism in the country.

Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism (C4CJ) announced in July that the body had secured €250,000 (approx. £223,000) of funding from the Google Digital News Innovation Fund to create new revenue streams for the community and hyperlocal news sector.

As well as discussion concerning the BBC Local Democracy Reporter Scheme there were other points of interest including the next stage with regard to the development of The project, Value My News (VMN), by the Centre for Community Journalism.

The project will develop an innovative suite of tools enabling community and hyperlocal news publishers to make money from, and track the sale of, hyperlocal stories, while at the same time copyright existing content.

Editor of the Pevensey Bay Journal, Simon Montgomery, who now sits on the Advisory Board for the Independent Community News Network, said “the most stimulating thing about being at this board meeting was seeing the strength and quality and dedicated purpose of community journalism across the country.

“We are just at the start of the new wave with community and hyperlocal journalism in this country, and key bodies on the field of play like the BBC and Google now recognise that the ground is shifting towards attention on to the future of local journalism in this country.

“The Pevensey Bay Journal is written by local people. We celebrate all that is best about our communities. We debate important local questions and campaign on subjects like the regeneration of economic activity and the preservation of precious community assets.

“We do all of these things with an understanding that the future of local journalismis being seen through the prism of what is happening with print media at the regional and national level.

“When Alan Rushbridger, the ex-editor of the Guardian says that news is broken, he is not just talking about the national press, he is also talking about the regional level. This is a critical time, as he suggests,

“In the brave new world of community journalism in the 21st century, there are two tests, the first is whether the public will now licence the local news output in the way that Alan Rushbriger suggests, the second is whether commercial viability will emerge with this activity. Google recognises these points, as does the BBC, so helping to plan the next stage on this journey is both exciting and a challenge,

“What we are doing with the Pevensey Bay Journal already ticks both boxes with regard to tests in relation to the viability of the hyperlocal press, so with the support of Google in the form of the grant provided by the Digital Innovation Fund the next stage is going to be interesting.

“The meeting hosted at the BBC in Birmingham sent out the right message across the country. The BBC is involved in community journalism now through the Local Democracy Reporter Scheme, Google is now linked with the Digital News Innovation Fund. What we are seeing is the birth of a generational change with the local press.

“The real credit should be given to our stable of local writers with the Pevensey Bay Journal here. People like Margaret Martin with her critical questions about the future of the library service here for example deserve credit, as does our young columnist, 25 year old Danni Lee, and her Generation Millennium pieces.

“These are critical pieces of work seen through the local prism, setting an agenda and context that reaches out to an audience  beyond Pevensey Bay”.

Simon suggested, “we are delighted as a hyperlocal newspaper to be recognised with the purposing of what we are doing here in Pevensey Bay, and part of this new conversation about the future of the hyperlocal press

“There is nothing new under the sun, holding a local newspaper and browsing the news is a visceral experience, about a sense of place and about identity as a community.

“This was true with the Sussex Weekly Advertiser founded in Lewes in 1746 and this is continues to be the case in 2018. There is an argument to be put that with so many question arising with our local public services, local authorities and a sense of coummunity, that what is happening needs to become accountable. The independence of these newspapers is one way in which local authorities, local bodies and local decision making can be held to account.

“There are many ways to make a connection between people, one of those ways, is in print, The re-casting of the local press aims to restore some of these connections between people, what is happening is part of a much bigger story”.

“Google understands this point and so does the BBC. Local news begins with local people, this will always be the case.

“The reason that a local delivery mechanism like a hyperlocal newspaper works is because this is a very simple way to make the connection between people.

“Seeing two people in the Bay Side Diner with the latest edition of the Pevensey Bay Journal, for example, makes the point.

“Spread out on a table two people were seen not just browsing the newspaper together, but having a a two way conversation, discussing the future of the village with regard to the proposal to develop the Beach Tavern site into a three storey block of flats. Sparking such a conversation is an example of how a local newspaper can add value to community debate.

“This is the kind of thing that local newspapers should be doing, in this way they become part of the communities that they serve, interestingly also they increase their commercial viability in the process, because local businesses want to be part of the brand.

“In that sense the future of Pevensey Bay as a village is a bigger story and part of a national story.These local newspapers, with the utilisation of the Google Innovation Fund will now be able to start sharing these stories.

“Connected, the hyperlocal press in this country, from the ground up, can begin to deliver the news again”.

The beta stage with the Google Innovation Fund, as the Advisory Board outlined, has already begun.

A scoping exercise will aim to see content protected both online and in print at the hyperlocal level.