Since September 2008, Pits n Pots has reported on the issues and concerns of Stoke locals, with a particular focus on the activities of councilors and the city’s other elected representatives. The blog was set up because Mike Rawlins and Tony Walley felt that coverage of local politics in the local media at the time was lacking. Pits n Pots was established as a forum where people could discuss local politics in an intelligent, open manner.
Pits n Pots has broken stories which have made the national press. In February 2009 the website published a story about the BNP’s use of WWII imagery for their campaign paraphernalia featuring a Spitfire from a Polish squadron. The article was picked up around the country. Journalists working for the site also interviewed Opposition leader Ed Miliband, covered an EDL rally in Stoke live, and mounted challenging questions to the Stoke council about waste management strategy and other issues.
The Journalism Foundation is working with Rawlins to redesign the site in a bid to boost reader engagement, increase traffic to the site and enhance understanding of how local politics affects real people.
Pits n Pots will be redesigned from the ground up, improving its social media presence, design and ease of use. The site will be designed by The Independent’s head designer Nick Donaldson and will be relaunched in March at an event hosted by The Journalism Foundation featuring readers, politicians, academics and members of the local and national press. The Foundation is also going to fund a print edition of the publication, which will aim to widen Pits n Pots’s audience.
Pits n Pots has seen the complexion of the Stoke-on-Trent council change dramatically during its life. When BNP Chairman Nick Griffin launched his 2010 election manifesto in the city, he described Stoke-on-Trent as ‘the jewel in the BNP’s crown’. From a politically mixed council that included Conservatives, Labour, BNP, Liberal Democrats and independents, Stoke’s local government is now Labour-dominated after the last election in 2011. Through these changes the website has endeavoured to give equal voice to all parties, challenging elected officials to communicate their policies openly and explain the reasons for their voting on issues critical to their constituencies.
As local papers struggle in an increasingly difficult media environment, Pits n Pots is an invaluable resource to Stoke-on-Trent and an example of the great benefits that can come through citizen journalism. The Journalism Foundation hopes that its involvement will help the site reach more people and become part of the fabric of political debate in Stoke-on-Trent.