Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian gave the annual Cudlipp lecture this evening entitled ‘Does journalism exist’. He featured an interview i did with him about the hyperlocal website i run in London’s hard-pressed Kings Cross (i have inserted links):
‘…..Which ‐ before we think about business models ‐ is probably a good moment to introduce the man who prompted the title of tonight’s talk. Last autumn I was at a government seminar on the future of local newspapers when one of the participants suddenly interjected: “I don’t believe in journalism.”
This was a very direct challenge to my general worldview, not to mention my job, so I sought out the person who had made it ‐ a very interesting man called William Perrin ‐ a former Cabinet Office civil servant who threw it all in to run a hyperlocal website reporting on the area of London where the Guardian now lives ‐ King’s Cross.
Perrin absolutely believes in the moral power and importance of what many of us might think of as journalism. But he isn’t a journalist, he doesn’t call it journalism and he is completely uninterested in the monetary value of what he does. He finds other ways to pay his mortgage. This is William Perrin:
William Perrin: “I set up a very simple website in 2006 â€¦ to my surprise this thing took off and has been very successful. In three or four years we have written 800 articles on King’s Cross and area a mile long by half a mile wide â€¦The website we have used to drive campaigns on the ground. We’ve run big campaigns against Network Rail, where we secured a million pounds for community improvements. We used the website again to take on Cemex, a multibillion-pound company â€¦ we took them on and we won. We have about four people who write for the site, on average, there’s up to six, but normally there’s about four of us writing. We all do it as a volunteer effort. It costs us about £11 a month in cash, which is about three of four pints of beer … we have a very strong community of people around here who send us stuff. None of the people who work with me are journalists. I’m not a journalist by any stretch of the imagination; it’s an entirely volunteer effort â€¦ Some people what I do in my community some people label journalism, it’s a label I actually resist.”
Depending on your point of view, you may find that vision of new ways of connecting and informing communities inspiring or terrifying. I think it is both ‐ but it is a useful starting point to thinking about the value of journalism, in every sense of the word ‘value’. And it is good to be forced to think at an even more basic level ‐ about what journalism is and who can do it.
Overall it’s good to see a major media figure give local websites the recognition they deserve. There are many people out there with better local sites than me – I hope that their local editors reach out and talk with them too.
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