Over the past three years, Mike Rawlins has run a website which aims to boost political engagement in Stoke-on-Trent. In conjunction with The Journalism Foundation he plans to expand that effort
PITS N POTS WAS launched in September 2008 to provide an online space where people could discuss the local politics and governance of Stoke-on-Trent City Council. The site was devised as a public service whose intention was never to generate income, but rather keep the public engaged with the politics of the area.
Pits n Pots was originally published using a free online publishing platform, but due to the explosion of public interest it rapidly outgrew its original home and was moved on to a self-hosted platform in December 2008.
The site continued to grow and was widely acclaimed for the way it dealt with local politics from the far left to the far right equally.
As time went on, six simple guidelines came to determine how we would report on news in the area.
• we will talk to any political party or councillor who will talk to us
• we will promote all councillors equally if they allow us
• we will never edit an audio interview
• the site is a public service with no links to any organisation that could influence it
• local democracy and transparency are the mainstays of the site
• all politics from far right to far left can be discussed
With the support of The Journalism Foundation I hope that Pits n Pots will move forward and continue reporting on local politics in Stoke-on-Trent after the biggest and most radical ward boundary changes in a generation.
The support of the foundation will allow me to do three things. First, I am hoping to investigate ways for Pits n Pots to become a more sustainable public service business model while improving the awareness and reach of the site. Second, I will be looking to find ways to promote better democratic, popular engagement across sections of the population who have not traditionally been engaged with democracy. Finally, I will hope to use The Journalism Foundation’s support to create a template that can be used by active democratically engaged people across the country.
Over the coming months I will report on the successes and, I should imagine, almost inevitable failures, as I try a range of different approaches to improve democratic engagement in my area.
Mike Rawlins is the editor of Pits n Pots
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