I am speaking on behalf of One&Other® – a 60-strong collective of professional journalists, illustrators, designers, photographers, videographers, hackers and hobbyists, coming together to re-imagine local news for the 21st century. We believe that local media has the potential (and responsibility) to not only inform and entertain, but also to inspire and empower communities for good. As such, among our curation of local news and culture, you’ll also find us trying to tackle some of the UK’s biggest social issues head on, encouraging our readers to become part of the solution in the process. To echo John Sentamu’s recent comment, “In difficult times, rather than despair at the lack of good news, we need to go out and BE the good news.” Out has gone the negative news agenda, and in its place comes a mission to re-inject the relevance, intelligence, charm, beauty and purpose back into local media.
Not dissimilar to The Journalism Foundation, we’re pretty vocal about what we consider the model of the future to look like and make no apologies for that.
This shared passion combined with a lot of hard work saw us launch our first platform in beta (in our pilot city of York) only four months ago. www.oneandother.com is our digital home and the daily meeting point for the breadth and depth of our local community. It is noticeably and purposely different from the traditional alternatives in its aesthetic, openness, editorial ethos, and underlying mission. It’s these stark differences and deep connection points that call out to our readers, capture their imagination, and make us stronger by the day.
On the back of this, we have already announced that we will be moving into print in Spring 2012. The continued support of all our contributors and creative agency The Beautiful Meme means it will look and read like its digital cousin. In keeping with our open and free approach to local media, and with additional backing by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, we will also use this positive step to improve accessibility to the local media for those not currently digitally active. Our ambition is to use our publications to reduce poverty and social exclusion.
You see, we believe that local media have a responsibility beyond profit that needs to be protected: that is to serve, enlighten, empower and advance communities. For this to happen within One&Other, we are guided by 3 principles:
1. That we must operate from within the communities that we serve
2. That we must seek to employ local knowledge and talent wherever possible
3. That all profits are reinvested into making us stronger and the creation of more social value
By setting up as a Community Interest Company (a form of Social Enterprise), we can honour this third principle. This safeguard from personal profit or any stripping of value-creating assets in the future offers protection for everybody who is donating their time and talent to the publication, as well as the communities we’re looking to serve.
This unique approach also brings its own unique set of benefits, all of which can be channeled for the greater good.
It’s important to point out that we’ve never set out to (nor do we wish to) pick a fight with the rest of the category in a bitter war of words or David vs. Goliath standoff. We are fuelled by purely positive motives and respect other journalists too much for that to be the case. Instead we’re proud of our difference and feel we’re not alone in our beliefs. Whether you agree with our vision or not, it’s clear that change is needed to arrest the depressing spiral of decline in the industry and by offering something truly different it might just engage a wider audience. We’ve made baby steps towards proving that theory and hope may happily co-exist long into the future.
This viewpoint has been accompanied by a very early and very public declaration of our ambition. We have set our sights on a ‘One&Other’ in 7 cities in 3 years. We’re the first to acknowledge that we’re just at the start of a very long journey – one that will require a constant stream of new ideas and innovations, a wealth of tenacity, and the odd pivot currently unknown. Of course, that’s before you add a healthy dose of good fortune. We launched One&Other fully embracing this equation and are looking forward to revealing our hand in the months ahead.
Stuart Goulden is the Founder and Managing Director of One&Other