Just the fact that the Bristol Cable exists is an achievement worthy of praise but the fact that it is fast becoming a really interesting publication beyond its origins and operating model is something that should really be celebrated.
For those who don’t know the Bristol Cable describes itself as;
..a media co-operative — created and owned by over 900 (and counting) people in the city.
I am one of those 900ish people who pays £36 a year to support the publication of the monthly newspaper, the website and the various other good works the team undertakes. It is money well spent and as someone with something of an interest in open organisations it has been incredibly interesting to observe how they are developing their own open culture while maintaining their focus on mission.
I also have an ongoing interest in the changing face of journalism and how the internet effects traditional models so I’d likely be a supporter no matter what.
Like I said though the success of the open, co-operative model is only the start of it. The publication is fast becoming a fresh vocal voice in a local media starved of much competition to the long complacent Bristol Evening Post.
A real strength in recent editions has been the investigative, data-informed journalism that has been doing a great job holding the activities of local government to account. Given my day job and my involvement in our own data journalism channel I have really enjoyed watching this become a real feature of the Cable.
In the most recent issue the piece on the sale of Avonmouth Port was really very well done, backed by good use of data and FoI and actually pretty even handed. I also enjoyed this article about the challenges facing the city as population continues to grow locally while housing and facilities fail to keep up. Last month I particularly enjoyed the feature on the Easton Cowfolk and in a case of being ahead of the game the story about tax havens and off-shore companies and their influence locally seems even more relevant since the leak of the #panamapapers.
Nothing is perfect though. At times some of the articles can read a little like they were pasted straight out of a student newspaper (if they still exist) and become less investigation and report more opinion piece.
There is a danger because of this that it becomes a bit niche and ends up preaching to the converted. This would be a shame as I believe it is already better than this and will only improve if it is continued to be supported (hopefully in even greater numbers.)
I said something on Twitter about maybe the issues needed something ‘lighter’ in the mix. This was interpreted as meaning positive stories but I’m not sure that is really what I meant. At the moment the rather begrudging ‘good news’ section in the paper actually confirms the general down beat tone and there is nothing wrong with that. It is a cynical age.
I don’t think there should be puff-pieces about local z-list celebs, or straight from the press release articles about new eateries opening or god help us listicles!
That said would it hurt to feature local up and coming bands? Review or preview goings on at the Cube?
Chatting to some of the people involved in the amazing stuff coming out of Knowle West Media Centre?
Give some coverage to some of the slightly more obscure sports taking part in the city (Korfball anyone?)?
The city used to have a great small press comics scene — if it still does commission different comic strips each month?
Having a few more immediately accessible stories does not detract from the ‘mission’ it just widens the pool of people to influence and educate with the great investigative articles.
I don’t know — god knows I’m no editor — but what I’d love is to see people reading the Cable on a bus in Filton not just a bar in Stokes Croft. To have people asking for a copy in Hartcliffe Library (as long as it is open) and to see them in doctors surgeries in Bishopston.
Anyway — you can support the team from as little as a quid a month — you know you want to!