In December 2019, Britain’s longest-running community newspaper, Scottie Press, relaunched with editor Joel Hansen at the helm. With the paper retaining a commitment to its hyperlocal focus on Vauxhall and North Liverpool, Hansen argues for a greater engagement with community journalism as means of making change from the ground up.
As we painfully get to grips with the results of December’s general election, for many of us, the last two months have left us fearing what’s to come from the next four-year drag of Tory reign. Alongside the lingering cynicism for the future, Labour supporters throughout the country have been left stumped, questioning, ‘How did this happen’
There are a myriad of answers out there; people will tell you it was down to Brexit, or it was the Labour Party fractiously fighting against itself. They may be right. For me, one thing was clearer than most; the billionaire-backed biased media turned it up to 11 to ensure their Eton-educated boy became Prime Minister.
As the editor of SCOTTIE PRESS newspaper based in North Liverpool, my career as a journalist is just beginning. I took on the role three years ago, aged 23, on a mission to save the publication from going out of print. Even without formal training as a journalist, my duty to be truthful, accountable and objective is the most fundamental part of my job. And I didn’t need a degree to know that either. It’s as simple as choosing to do right or wrong, having integrity and also a conscience. I know this, but today’s news climate now seems to have become devoid of journalistic standards and humane morals.
It was no shock that the usual suspects reeled off the expected nonsense in the lead up to the election, as the tabloid media campaign to discredit Jeremy Corbyn became a vindictive witch-hunt absent of fact. But what did concern me was the coverage from BBC News, whose series of ‘mistakes’ conveniently seemed to endorse Boris Johnson, leaving serious questions surrounding the neutrality and credibility of our national broadcasting service.
So, what now? We are seemingly headed in a downward spiral in to a post-truth world and areas across the country are left feeling helpless to further government cuts. Unjust policies and attacks on the freedom of the press lay on the horizon. While Labour strongholds such as Liverpool become marginalised, isolated and ever more powerless under the serving government, the vital reforms needed for working-class communities seem farther away than ever.
Although I think it’s important for everyone to engage in political discussions, it can become easy to get caught up in discourse that almost becomes a self-perpetuating echo chamber full of self-assuring opinions and repeated statements. We can’t change the outcome of the election but we can still focus on what’s happening on our doorstep at a time when it feels like we’ve lost control, have no voice and feel detached from national politics and media.
As a democratic society, it isn’t just what’s happening on a national stage, it’s in our city, it’s in our community and it’s in our streets. Ensuring accountability through all elected roles is a democracy – that means local council positions and your ward councillors.
The number of people I hear who engage themselves in politics nationally but have no regard for their elected councils is shocking. I see problems in communities and regularly voice issues raised by residents in wards across North Liverpool that could be mitigated through better communication, organisation and accountability on a local level. Yet a feeling of apathy towards local politics prevents any change from happening.
When faced with national political divisions, a distrust in mainstream media and no real prospect of a political revolution anytime soon, I see it as necessary for the resurgence of grassroots media. Let’s take back control of the news in our communities; this can be the first step in shaping media platforms that people can trust, while also engaging the public in local politics to create a more equal society from the ground up.
Trying to reduce issues that affect our day-to-day lives can at least give us a glimpse at reforming systems locally through knowledge, awareness and engaging content in the places we live and the institutions that locally govern us. It can teach us how a local government operates, helping people better understand policies and bring accountability to all elected officials.
Independent forms of media aren’t just starting to arise on a regional level but also on the international stage, with access to the internet alternative mediums are beginning to draw viewers away from the mainstream as they offer a more relatable, reliable and honest source of information. The online world has opened up platforms that don’t have to conform to ideology forced on them by big business; they allow people the freedom to talk about what they want without having to be silenced on matters that don’t support the agendas of the billionaires financing their news organisation.
This is a new beginning for media and potentially a new era for politics, so let’s start working on relaunching news on a grassroots level and start to take notice of democracy in our neighbourhoods. This could be the start of a paradigm shift the creates a better world for us all.