For a local web and print magazine run by an assortment of people who have not come straight out of newsrooms, the Bristol Cable has caused a splash since its launch in 2014. And the journalism, which is carving out a niche as community-led, investigative media serving Bristol, is only half of the story. As a co-op, the Cable is owned and led by over 1,000 co-op members in the city. One person, one vote. What lessons have we learned during the project, and is a local media co-op realistic in other locations? Here are our tips.
The origins of the Cable lie in a series of high-quality journalism and media workshops held all around Bristol, attracting contributors and building networks. Their ideas shaped the project from the beginning. Now members continue to influence and mandate the direction of the Cable through participating in regular co-op meetings and using an online discussion forum – deciding everything from finances and advertising to events. Engagement by members and readers is fundamental to the project – and we constantly seek to refine and update engagement platforms. Having a print publication and continuously running workshops and events, often alongside other community groups, has been crucial to this.
In contrast to the abundant ‘churnalism’ of mainstream local press and much of the media, new and old, the Cable found a niche offering an original deeper look at issues, challenging investigative pieces and community voices – from exiled Kurds on ISIS to investigations into local nepotism and exploitation and the deep-data stories on housing and climate change. Rather than just playing catch-up with advances in journalism we sought to use new approaches from the off, and caught attention for our infographics, design and interactive approach – with a nice dose of humour too. This has been crucial for establishing legitimacy, attracting the start-up funding, elevating so-called community journalism to a standard way higher than most conventional media, and reaching out to a broad audience.
Sometimes information and ideas seems like a hard sell. So you have to layer on the reasons to take notice and get involved. The Cable is valued by its membership and in the community as much for its events and workshops as for the content. We’ve run workshops on reporting on the police, the Freedom of Information Act, video journalism and dozens more. We’ve put on unique hustings, film screenings, run extensive programmes and even thrown the occasional party. This means a lot more work but it’s important. Add to that discount deals with local businesses and you’ve got a decent case to make.
The Cable’s history is not one of ‘activism’ but more one of organising. The long-term financial sustainability and social aims of the Cable rely on a membership paying £1-plus a month. This means involvement, and building a community of interest is essential. Make sure you speak to a wide cross-section of people and groups. Various people with conventional or other expertise in our network have contributed greatly to the project, whether it’s community elders, youth, ‘on side’ journalists, film makers, designers, media law lecturers or the Centre for Investigative Journalism. Their input has been invaluable.
The first two years of the project have been possible due to a sort of collective chronic masochism, based on fervent belief in the co-op’s potential. Until this month all work, from the core co-ordinators to every contributor, was unpaid – although taking on the challenge and the lessons learned in the process have been priceless. Be ready for doing as much project management and administration as journalism (alongside another job)! Also – the Cable is far from a proven model, so let’s see what happens next.
Hilary Wainwright argues against reclaiming populism for the left and for a leadership that supports people’s capacity for self-government
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant