Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

How to make your own media

Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op

December 13, 2016
4 min read

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.

1 Get offline and build a network

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.

2 Have a niche, but don’t box yourself in

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.

3 Expand what you’re offering

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.

4 Build a diverse community

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.

5 And finally – be prepared for hard work

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.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase

Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields

Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton

Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi

A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain

Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank

Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded

West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens

Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age

Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi


48