Love Wapping has today become one of the first members of the Independent Community News Network (ICNN), a new national network representing independent community news publications.
Great news for local communities.
A really bad day for dodgy politicians.
ICNN has been brought into being by the hard work of the Centre for Community Journalism (C4CJ) at Cardiff University, particularly Emma Meese who has spent more time on trains than most train drivers to get this done.
The aim of ICNN is to advocate and lobby on behalf of independent news publishers across the country and fight for better opportunities for all.
Nice shiny logo but we want badges too
Every member of the Love Wapping editorial team and the Wapping Mole think the ICNN is such a good idea they voted overwhelmingly to add the shiny new ICNN logo to our site masthead (the bit at the top of every page).
Sad fact is that although we live in the ‘information age’ it is increasingly difficult to find reliable news relevant to where you live.
Traditional local newspapers, or zombie media as we like to call them, are pretty much dead especially in east London.
Those that do exist mainly publish press releases from organisations who want you to believe their version of events.
Reporters with no local knowledge sit in remote editorial ‘hubs’ and push pre-packaged content around with the vain hope of getting a job somewhere else.
The publishers of zombie media are only interested in more ad revenue to feed their corporate objectives.
It’s that zombie media again
One of the problems with this profit-led approach is that if there is a clash between shareholders interests and the needs of readers the shareholders usually win.
In addition to ad revenue many zombie media publishers are increasingly reliant on revenue from their local authority to publish statutory notices and the like.
That means the local authority politicians and officers who indulge in corruption get an easy ride. Always.
So if junior reporter Henry Hackworthy uncovers systemic corruption in the town hall they are told to forget about it.
Result? The corruption flourishes.
What an amazing job huh? You get paid by the very residents who you are screwing over. Double bubble as Del Boy would say.
In contrast independent community news publications such as Love Wapping and What’s In Wapping and 400 other similar organisations across the UK such as community newspaper The Brixton Bugle, The Bristol Cable and Shepway Vox only work if they serve the communities in which they live.
And that’s what we do.
One of the great things about ICNN members is that every publication is different as each reflects the needs of its community and the people who do the whole reporting thing.
The story that keeps on giving
In direct contrast to the zombie media local government corruption is the bread and butter of ICNN members – ’storyville’ as the inimitable Ted Jeory would say.
All good stuff with the slight drawback that many ICNN members struggle to survive financially, Love Wapping very much included.
Many if not all independent publications are funded by the people who run them, others like The Bristol Cable have membership models or run adverts like . Love Wapping just puts out the begging bowl and relies on the generosity of individuals.
The Independent Community News Network is potentially very powerful.
To stop national tragedies such as the Grenfell Tower fire from ever happening again community journalists need more tools to do their job. One of these tools is some form of enhanced investigation rights, possibly in the form of enhanced powers for Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
Another tool which should be available to every citizen is extending FOI powers to include Housing Associations and private contractors whose entire business model is reliant on public sector contracts.
It’s your money the contractors are spending – should you not be able to find out what they do with it?
The ICNN can now formally lobby central government for these sort of changes on behalf of its members.
Last but not least the ICNN can be the core of a national investigative stories that existing media organisations rarely if ever undertake.
Think community-led Panorama style investigation. (Without telly, natch. Or a budget. Or anything really. Apart from skill and local knowledge.)
Imagine a scenario where four community investigative publications have found that a national organisation indulges in corrupt business practice every day of the week. Cost to the UK? Tens of millions of pounds. Maybe hundreds of millions.
The community journalists work with each other to fully invest the way the corruption works in their own part of the country. Over many months they work away, swapping information and techniques and comparing results. Every discovery confirms that the corruption works in exactly the same way in every local authority across England, Scotland and Wales.
The more affluent investigators might even club together to buy some false noses as disguises.
Ba da bing ba da boom!
After the initial work is complete the ICNN comes into its own. A basic investigative procedure is distributed to hundreds of other community journalists across the UK, essentially a starter-kit which gives the less experienced investigators the tools and direction to do the job in their area.
The ICNN monitors the wider investigation and helps collate and check the results. While the results of each local investigation are important in their own right when combined they are exceptionally powerful.
ICNN then organises the publication of the bigger national story to community publications across the country at the same time on the same day.
Ba da bing ba da boom! ICNN is in the house. Every house.
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