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  

Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism

Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists

Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson

As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win

The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution

Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.

‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright

Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones

‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression

Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death

‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum

The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes