Former radio journalist launches new Bedford title following local paper closures as he claims news coverage 'not like it used to be'

A former local radio station news editor has launched an independent news title for Bedford, with plans for a website to go live later this year, saying towns like it are “not getting good local coverage like they used to”.

Bedford Independent co-founder Paul Hutchinson said the new title will be the “modern news desk that would give the people of Bedford easy access to genuine news�.

Hutchinson – who worked at Bedfordshire-based local radio station Chiltern FM, is one of three co-owners of the Independent, which has begun publishing news items on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“We did a soft launch two weeks ago and our numbers are already through the roof,” he told Press Gazette. “We’ve got more than 1,000 likes on Facebook, and we are pushing close to the same across Instagram and Twitter combined.”

Hutchinson said the Independent’s launch was prompted by concerns about the quality of local news coverage for the town of Bedford.

Bedford has one weekly newspaper: The Times and Citizen, owned by Johnston Press. The Reach-owned Bedfordshire Midweek, formerly the Bedfordshire on Sunday, closed in June this year after eight months.

Said Hutchinson: “I’ve noticed the struggle of resources that local journalism has in all its forms not just print, but broadcast too, which means towns like Bedford are not getting good local coverage like we used to.”

Hutchinson, who has been in the journalism industry for 15 years, launched the news site with former colleagues Erica Roffe and Julie Course-Crofts. His business partners co-founded “culture-zine” The Bedford Clanger.

“We were having a conversation after the Bedford Midweek closed, which sparked an idea to create a fresh news desk that’s hyperlocal and will only be covering the Bedford borough area,â€� said Hutchinson.

Although the Independent is backed by private investors, Hutchinson says they will not have an influence on editorial coverage.

“We are independent by name and independent by nature,” he stressed.

“People have asked if have a political stance – we don’t have one, other than our individual views. We write the facts and let the readers make their own decisions.”

Despite the closure of the popular Bedfordshire on Sunday by Reach (formerly Trinity Mirror), Hutchinson said he “isn’t worried” about launching a new title into the market.

He said: “I have the upmost respect for Steve Lowe [former editor of the Bedfordshire on Sunday], but in some ways the problem traditional media has is that they find it difficult to see what a modern news desk can be.

“Our overheads are very fixed because we have to pay for our web postings and our staff – we don’t have the same overheards as print media.

“We can prove how many people are reading our articles, with print and radio there’s a lot of guess work there. Lastly, we can upload news whenever, without having to wait until the print date – we can be quicker with our stories.”

He added: “Bedfordshire Midweek was never going to last and we think that was down to big companies not seeing them as a viable income stream and essentially cutting their losses.

“The Times and Citizen is still operating, but it’s owned by Johnston Press, who has hundreds of titles and it seems that Bedford isn’t in their area of priority.

“This is the problem with the way that local news is being run.”

Hutchinson said he and his team of journalists “owe it to the people of Bedford� to produce content that isn’t just “copied and pasted�.

The news site, which is headquartered in Bedford, is due to launch at the end of autumn after the team move into office space next month.

Picture: Paul Hutchinson

Source: Digital Journalism
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