The Provincial Press

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This chapter seeks to chart the journey of the provincial press during the twentieth century. As such it will focus on the political economy of this aspect of the newspaper industry to scope its development from a staid, politicised platform to a highly-commercialised – and highly profitable – media industry. The narrative identify stages in this journey: the adoption of the techniques of New Journalism, the unremitting move to conglomerate forms of ownership, the impact of World War II and the impact of computer technology. The concluding part of the chapter will presage the most recent changes within the industry following the advent of digital technologies.

A case study approach will evidence this development via the CN Group in Carlisle, publishers of the Cumbrian News among others. Documentary evidence, in the form of accounts and correspondence, will enable me to bring fresh insight into the way in which political purpose was aligned with profit; the resistance to conglomerate ownership; how the company operated during World War II, and, more recently how the group has diversified as print industry has increasingly converged with other media sectors. This account of an independently-owned publisher will offer a foil to the plethora of accounts which surround the dominant owners in this sector. Carlisle’s liminal geographical position within the UK also enables the discussion to be widened to consider the similarities and differences with the shape of the provincial press in Wales and Scotland.

Within this overarching narrative will be the consideration of the provincial press in terms of form – including the rise of the evening press, the free newspaper and the ‘metro’. Other key events include the three Royal Commissions and industrial action in opposition to the introduction of computerised technology, both of which evidence the tension between the implicit justification for the provincial press – of serving the good of the community – and its operation as a business. This is significant for the understanding it brings to the crisis experienced by the provincial press in the first decades of the twenty-first century.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press
Subtitle of host publicationCompetition and Disruption, 1900-2017
EditorsMartin Conboy, David Finkelstein
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781474424950
ISBN (Print)978-1474424929
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2020

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  • provincial press
  • newspapers
  • journalism
  • Political Economy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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