Guardian Leeds: the regeneration begins

Sign my pledge at PledgeBank

So today is the last day of Guardian Leeds, and this pledge gets a mention in John Baron’s characteristically gracious and professional signing-off post.

Leeds won’t let quality local news slip away without a fuss. There have been two meetings and numerous discussions about what happens next. You can find out more on two new blogs:

And in terms of the pledge, an amazing 14 people have said they’ll commit the price of a Guardian subscription to a citizen-run alternative for the city. For the pledge to succeed in its current form we need to sign up 21 more people in the next four days. Reader, I hope you’ll be one of them.

I will commit £23.32 per month to a citizen-run news service for Leeds that offers quality writing with a determinedly local focus but only if 35 other local people will do the same

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.

There’s been a lively discussion about all this on Twitter under the #SaveGdnLeeds and #SaveGdnLocal hastags so I wanted to make a few points clear about the pledge and why I made it this way.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Sign my pledge at PledgeBank

Can’t turn off the telescreen

I loved this post pointing out that “You can’t move in London without someone giving you the news“.

It struck a chord with me – first because of my own interest in how the way we get the news has changed, yet stayed the same, but also because this seems to be a particularly London phenomenon.

While the big screens do exist up North, they don’t yet feel quite as ubiquitous or oppressive as in the Capital.

Is this because we’re behind the times? Is an army of telescreen installers waiting for the next clear day to descend on some unsuspecting provincial town?

Or is it that Northerners just don’t feel the same need to be frenetically in the know, up to the minute, every moment of the day?

We can have slow food, how about slow news?