Ever wondered how an independent community media outlet like West Leeds Dispatch operates? In the first of a series of weekly posts, editor JOHN BARON looks at how we’re powered by people and their knowledge and passion of their communities.
“You say you’re community led? Great. What does that actually mean though?”
That was the question I was asked last week when trying to explain to someone what makes West Leeds Dispatch unique.
It’s a good question, which got me thinking. Put simply, we’re powered by people, rather than big business and the quest for page impressions.
The Dispatch is run by the board of a not-for-profit social enterprise called West Leeds Community Media. Their responsibilities include ensuring that we’re sustainable as an organisation.
They’re all volunteers from all walks of life who live in West Leeds, and who give up their time to help develop the Dispatch and improve local people’s access to news, information, groups, campaigns and activities. None of the board are paid.
The board doesn’t influence our editorial content. This is managed by myself as the volunteer editor (I was Pudsey born and bred some 47 years ago, am a journalist and lecturer by profession and have spent much of my life in and around West Leeds).
So again, we have strong West Leeds connections and knowledge.
Much of the content is written by myself and a fabulous band of 40+ community reporters, all of whom are volunteers who care about their local community and want to help tell its story.
They come from all different backgrounds and many have taken part in a six-week course we offer to help them tell the stories they want to tell. The added bonus is that it provides people with extra skills and confidence to take into work, as well as fostering a sense of community pride.
I never cease to be amazed at some of the great stories our community reporters unearth from their communities, often about inspirational people they know or activities that would otherwise go unreported. Take a look at some of their 740+ articles here.
This is what makes us a different type of media. We’re a bottom-up group with our hearts and souls grounded in where we live. We’re not driven by a quest for page impressions or a massive audience, we’re driven by a desire to empower people to tell stories about where we live.
We aim to better connect people with their communities and to empower them with knowledge, as well as do the traditional journalism things like hold power to account etc.
We’re independent from any political party and from big media chains – everything we do comes from the community and involves the community.
Our content is shaped by the people of West Leeds and we’re powered by the community spirit in the area. And we’d love more people to join us in our community led mission!
If you fancy joining us, please drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always looking for new community reporters and people who can help on the business side as we look towards becoming sustainable.