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Reflecting regional life: Localness and social capital in Australian country newspapers

Volume 17, Issue 2

October, 2011

From page
72
to page
91
Bowd, K. (2011). Reflecting regional life: Localness and social capital in Australian country newspapers. Pacific Journalism Review, 17(2): 72-91
Media, cultural diversity and community
Author(s): Kathryn Bowd
Publication date: 
October, 2011

Australian country non-daily newspapers are generally very much local in their emphasis—they cover mostly, or entirely, local news; they promote and advocate for the interests of their region; and they foster a close relationship with their readers. They are not only a valuable source of local news and information for their readership, but also help to connect people within their circulation area and reinforce community identity. This means they are ideally positioned to contribute to social capital— the ‘connections among individuals—social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them’ (Putnam, 2000). Social capital can be seen as having three basic components: a network; a cluster of norms, values and expectations; and sanctions that help to maintain the norms and network (Halpern, 2005), and newspapers can contribute to social capital by facilitating local debate and discussion, and reflecting back to communities through the news stories they cover local norms, values, expectations and sanctions. Interrelationships between elements of ‘localness’ in journalism practice at country newspapers and social capital in regional areas of Australia were explored as part of a wider study of relationships between communities and country newspapers. Journalists, newspaper owners and managers, and community participants from four regions of South Australia and Victoria were asked about their understandings of ‘localness’ in country newspaper journalism practice. This article suggests that such newspapers’ emphasis on localness is a key element of their capacity to contribute to social capital.