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2020: A year of growth for community media in West Leeds

Words: Dispatch Editor John Baron

As I write what will be the final West Leeds Dispatch post of 2020, it’s clear this will undoubtedly go down as a year like no other.

We’ve all faced our own personal challenges. Some will have lost friends and loved ones, many have been asked to shield and some have been working on the front-line. We’ve all had work and personal lives thrown into chaos.

Personally, I’ve found this year has taken its toll on my own wellbeing.

I am, however, humbled and proud how people have turned to West Leeds Dispatch for trusted and reliable local community news this year. We’ve had page impressions well into seven figures, had plaudits for our pilot printed newspaper launched in August and we’ve redesigned our website.

Our community reporters have contributed hundreds of articles, often shedding light on community issues or individuals doing great things – all stories that wouldn’t be told elsewhere. This week we had a lovely e-mail from a Bramley lady which I’d like to share as it frankly made my year:

“Dear editor, I’d like to thank you and your team fior everything you do. I receive your early morning e-mail newsletter every day and I’m not lying when I say that it’s the highlight of my day as it connects me with what is happening in the outside world and in my community. I’ve been isolating since before March and have only been out once, and that was a one-off to do my shopping.

“Not being What you and your team do keeps me informed with detailed reports and makes me realise that I’m not so alone after all. Thank you for everything you do. You’re a lifeline. Life is local!”

It’s lovely to get that sort of feedback and hear the difference we’re making to people.

WLD is community led by a dedicated board of volunteers who have a passion for increasing people’s access to news, information and local groups. We all have day jobs and put WLD together in what we laughingly call our spare time (and currently via Zoom meetings). As editor I put in about 25 hours’ a week on average – and it can be a real rollercoaster at times!

What we achieve a group of volunteers is frankly, amazing, if I do say so myself!

We couldn’t achieve any of it without the 50 or so supporters we have, who donate a small amount each month to help pay some of our costs. I want to say a big thanks to them and each and every one of our volunteers.

We’ve got plans and hopes for 2021 which we’d like to share with you. We hope to strengthen local independent community led journalism in West Leeds with an ambitious bid to the National Lottery to help make us at least semi-sustainable. We’re also planning to publish into print more regularly.

2021 is going to be a better year. There will be bumps in the road, particularly in the first few months, but we WILL get there.

Thank you for helping us to tell the story of your community in this, the most challenging of years, and for letting us into your lives.

If you’d like to become a community reporter – or want to help or get involved with WLD in any way – please drop me a line via news@westleedsdispatch.com.

Happy New Year!

Please support independent community led journalism in West Leeds…

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