A journalism cooperative for public-interest reporting

Signal of change / A journalism cooperative for public-interest reporting

By George Armour / 18 Apr 2017

Alec Saelens, Adam Cantwell, Alon Aviram are the founders of Bristol Cable, a quarterly newspaper-cum-magazine and online outlet. It aims to offer an answer to the hollowed-out state of local and city media through "commonly owned public-interest journalism, produced by a wide range of people.”

The core team of the Bristol Cable is a collective of approximately 10 people involved in developing the project on a daily basis. 20,000 free copies being distributed from more than 600 points across Bristol. 15 volunteers run the operation day to day, roll-call of contributors of more than 60 people.

Two years ago, the Cables three founders organised a series of workshops across Bristol – on everything from video journalism to reporting on the police – aimed at drawing in local people to what they were working on, and ensuring voices from across the city would be represented in the Cable’s content. New models of ownership by encouraging people to join the co-operative that was officially launched at the same time. There are 1500 people who are legal shareholders/members of the co-operative who jointly make decisions and help keep the operation afloat by contributing £2.50 a month.

It is also a co-op, which is not just in keeping with its democratic values, but also a viable way of securing funding – and in a world where people flit from one title to another, both membership and community involvement could build loyalty.

So what?

Local and city newspapers are owned by a small number of owners: five firms control 80% of the market, 43% of local government areas have a single source of local print reporting. This signal is an effort to hold local government accountable.

A major watershed moment last year for the Bristol Media Collective last year was when they received a £40,000 grant from the Chicago-based Reva and David Logan Foundation which supports “excellence in journalism, community organising and programmes to promote social justice” – this shows their potential to scale in the future.

Foundation President Richard Logan: He goes on: “The Bristol Cable is such a beast; a core of dedicated and intelligent young people asking the right questions based on a commitment to their community, a beautiful and engaging presentation in print disseminated free across the city and online, and a financial model that could very well sustain their work over the years. Their model and approach has the potential to be replicated in other UK cities and abroad, and their work is an exemplar for the best in local reporting..”

“Bristol’s a good test site for what we’re doing,” says Cantwell, after the meeting ends. “And if we can make this model work here, it can work in Chicago; it can work in Manchester; it can work in London. That’s one of the things that encourages me to be part of it: the fact that we’re developing something that can happen in other places too.”




What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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