Offline Old Folk Telephone Randoms for Local News

By Gary Cutlack on at

An MP for one Essex constituency says his office has been besieged by phone calls from elderly local folk since the last regional newspaper covering the area closed, as members of the offline elder generation battle to stay informed of hyperlocal issues when all they have now is a landline and a TV.

MP Robert Halfon says older community members, who don't have the luxury of smartphones to stare at to find things out about strangers and their clean-eating ways, have become disenfranchised by today's technology and the dying out of the art of the local newspaper, as how else can they keep up with the latest arguments about bin collection times and the car parking issues along North Road? There isn't even Teletext now. Or if there is it's too complicated to access, they don't know which remote to use and it won't work on their 1990s Trinitron anyway.

Halfron said: "I described it as a tragedy – and people accused me of hyperbole but I stand by my words. People are completely isolated. Especially if they're elderly, they've no idea what's going on, what's happening to the hospital, what the council are deciding, what the schools are doing, what their grandchildren are doing."

The decline of local newspapers is further unpicking an already fractured community spirit across the country, he says, plus it's not only unconnected older people who suffer; anyone with poor internet connectivity or crappy data packages may not be able to spend their hours on the new wave of local news web sites, missing out on potential small talk issues and feeling ever more isolated from their so-called communities. [BBC]

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