Local free newspapers and magazines have become an integrated part of urban life. They are no longer restricted to large cities and in an age of declining readership in traditional press, these publications are sometimes the only outlet that reaches the general population. This makes them interesting both in terms of media economy (the hyper-local as the only viable business model for print journalism), and in terms of the construction of community. Still, they are often an overlooked phenomenon in media and communication studies.
This paper takes its departure from the project “Healthy Cities”, a movement developed by WHO with the purpose to include health-related issues in the political, economic and social agenda. In this movement, WHO acknowledges media’s role for promoting health images from a local perspective. The paper will contribute to the research field of local media’s role for their audiences in terms of shaping ideas of being part of ”the good life”. From this perspective, media have an important function in individuals’ sense of belonging and well-being.
In recent years, the local media landscape in Sweden has changed. The mainstream journalism has been somewhat reduced, due to financial cutbacks. In the same time, there is a new pattern of free local newspapers and magazines, distributed within communities, and with clear ambitions to promote “the good life” within the geographical range of distribution. Since changes of mainstream media have weakened the traditional concept of media closeness, it is of importance to study the new and innovative media paths to connect individuals within communities (e.g. smaller towns) in order to understand how these work for individuals’ sense of belonging and especially related to issues of health, lifestyles and well-being.
In this paper we would like to take the opportunity to share the outlines for a research project on local free-of-charge media in the Swedish town Halmstad, that is one of the 1400 European town and city members in the “Healthy City” project.
We present some preliminary findings from four newspapers and magazines that are giving much attention to promote the image of “the good life” through articles about health, lifestyles and well-being.
The research project is part of an initiative to chart contemporary urban town living through an interdisciplinary research program that uses a community studies approach, where the aim of the present study is to understand the role that the free newspapers (and similar media outlets) play in representing and making sense of notions such as “health”, “lifestyle” and ”well-being” in Halmstad.
ECREA Pre-Conference: Dealing with the Local: Proximity and Community, Prague, Czech Republic, November 8, 2016