Think about this carefully because it’s quite a commitment.
The Guardian is “winding down” its Guardian Local pilot including the successful Leeds blog. I think this is a mistake. In just a short time John Baron and Sarah Hartley have created a service that gives a new and authentic voice to the UK’s sixth largest city. They’ve proven the value of a professional beatblogger who nurtures and complements the wider network of local bloggers.
As Jess Haigh put it,
Guest blogging on @GdnLeeds made me think finally it was OK to have stayed up North, that London wasn’t ‘all’.
And as I wondered what to do, it struck me that I already pay the Guardian £23.32 per month to subscribe to the print edition of the (London-based) paper. What if that money went directly to supporting, in Mike’s words, “quality writing with a determinedly local focus”? And how many (or how few) committed subscribers would it take to make a service sustainable?
Back of an envelope, 36 print subscribers pay the Guardian £10,000 per year. It wouldn’t fund a whole beatblogger but it’s certainly enough to get the ball rolling. If you subscribe to the Guardian (or indeed any other daily paper) in Leeds would you consider switching that spend to a citizen-run news service? I would, and so far seven other people have joined me on Pledgebank.
- This pledge is a spontaneous initiative in support of quality local media. I had no advance warning of today’s news and didn’t consult Sarah, John or anyone else before making my personal pledge. But if the required 35 people come forward I really hope they’ll be able to work with us to make good on the pledge.
- This is a pledge of support, not a business model. I don’t for a moment believe that 36 people paying £23.32 per month is in itself a sustainable way to run a local blog. But I do think that if a critical mass of people care a lot and are already paying for news in print form then it’s possible to do something.
- This initial pledge is deliberately demanding a high commitment of a small number of people. I know there are many more out there who value the blog but cannot or will not sign the pledge as it stands. That’s OK. We can widen the circle later.
- This pledge is born from a conviction that there is a future for paid-for media on the the web. Indeed if you’re not paying for a service, you’re not the customer, you’re the product. For all the reasons stated above I think the job of holding up of a mirror to a city of 700,000 people is too important to be left to advertisers alone.
- This pledge is about a community’s ability to tell its own stories. Right now we hear a lot about the risks of national supermarket chains squeezing out local retailers. Today I realised that what’s true of bread and milk may also be true of news and information.
So as of this evening I’m looking for 28 people to join me in the pledge by the end of May. I’m not altogether certain what will happen if we hit the target. But I know I’ll be very disappointed in our city if we don’t.