A New Yorker for Newcastle

by Steve Watson in April 2014
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Current affairs

Over the last week I’ve accidentally surrounded myself with independent publishers (and would-be publishers) who are driven by the ideals of ‘proper’ journalism.

On Monday The Book Club was packed out with people wanting to hear from the founders of Delayed Gratification, The Outpost and Postr. Each of these magazines are motivated by the desire to provide an alternative to what they see as the shortcomings of mainstream media coverage, but it was Rob Orchard from Delayed Gratification who really went to town on the lack of quality in our media diet.

I wrote last week about his seven “rotten things” about mainstream media, but in short, his point is that media organisations prioritise speed over quality, and therefore end up dealing in superficiality at best, and outright lies at worst.

A similar refrain was heard over the weekend at the Independent Magazine Publishing Masterclass I ran at the Guardian. Over the two days we explored various facets of magazine publishing in relation to the students’ magazine ideas, which ran the gamut from reggae culture to arts in Essex. But regardless of their subject matter, we kept on returning to basic principles built on ‘proper’ journalism.

For example, the desire to tell stories that accurately represent people rather than simplifying them; the desire to connect with real communities rather than parachuting in; and the need to make something that contributes a net good to the world.

The trouble is that all these noble aims cost money. But the good news is that more and more journalists are figuring out how to bridge that gap between idealism and practicality.

Just this week I came across Northern Correspondent, a project that has hit its Kickstarter goal (but still has a few days left to run) and is dedicated to building a home for long-form journalism in the north east of England. A close-knit group of local writers, photographers, illustrators, filmmakers and broadcasters, they’re setting out to fill the gap left by traditional local media.

It’s well worth watching their campaign video to get a sense of the tone they’re aiming for (and to see their impromptu editorial meeting in a bus stop).

They’re not railing at the shortcomings of mainstream media (in fact many of them probably work for the local news companies they want to improve) and instead there’s a striving to do better for the sake of better. As they say, they’re not in this to make money, and they’re not looking for charity – they want to use people’s contributions to create a quality addition to the local stories that are being told.

Because it’s not good enough to complain that the media isn’t working. It’s only through projects like Delayed Gratification and Northern Correspondent that we’ll get anywhere near a better version of the mainstream. And while innovation isn’t the sole preserve of independents, it’s definitely their competitive advantage.

Delayed Gratification
The Outpost
Northern Correspondent

Photo by Steve Conlan

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