Community journalism

I tumbled into community journalism by accident, but am lucky enough to have made it into a part-time job, with over 100 people funding my two sites, 853.london and charltonchampion.co.uk. Both are members of the Independent Community News Network, and both are signed up to receive content from the BBC’s Local News Partnership.

853

853 started in 2008 as a basic personal blog. I was about to take redundancy and wanted a place where I could show off a bit, and write about things like walking the Capital Ring.

But after I attended a council meeting in 2009 and was struck by the barely-disguised contempt councillors were showing for the public – and how this had gone unreported locally – I realised I could use it to follow stories that weren’t being covered elsewhere.

The site aims to keep local people up to date with the politics and developments that are changing Greenwich borough and the wider south-east London area. I go to council meetings, I read their documents, I put in Freedom of Information requests, and I talk to people.

The site had over 300,000 visitors in 2018, and over 100 people subscribe to a Patreon membership scheme, which means I can do this as part-time job.

The Charlton Champion

I began this local site for Charlton, south-east London in October 2010 as an experiment – could such a quiet area sustain a hyperlocal news site?

It quickly found its feet by breaking news of Greenwich Council withdrawing funding for a much-loved animal centre, and the site continues to provide news and information about events in SE7.

I now co-edit the site with local musician and photographer Neil Clasper while guest authors have included local councillors. It received 84,000 visitors in 2018, and local residents have the chance to help with the site’s running costs through a Patreon scheme. We also sell merchandise – launching postcards in 2018.

Flyover Media CIC

By 2019, it was apparent that both sites needed to find new ways of generating income if they were to expand. So, together with Neil, we set up Flyover Media CIC to publish the sites and to look at new possibilities for funding or new ventures. The company is named after the Woolwich Road Flyover in east Greenwich, a landmark which symbolises the neglect and complacency that will be familiar to anyone who has lived in this part of London. We’ll be anything but that. Watch this space…

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