The event is always inspiring. I’ve been lucky enough to attend each unconference since the first one in Stoke back in 2009 and it’s always good to catch up with old friends.
I also find the hyperlocal sector teeming with innovation that often puts mainstream media to shame, for instance there were sessions on new online tools for covering elections, crowdfunding, social media and latest technological advances.
By its nature hyperlocal tends to get closer to its readers. Many platforms have active comment sections – and local residents are also involved in writing the blogs themselves.
For more on TAL, check out the video below:
Anyway, TAL got me thinking of the Leeds community media scene and its richness and diversity. Here, in no particular order, is a rundown of the sites I’m aware of – appologies if I’ve missed any (give me a nudge in the comments section below if yours should be on here).
Serving the inner south postcodes of LS10 and 11, often focuses on positive, solutions-led journalism aimed at giving the community a voice and empowering people with knowkedge about the masses of stuff happening in their area. It has a number of active community reporters (backed up by training courses and community news cafes) contributing content. It’s currently a constituted community group with a hardworking committee of local residents and aims to become a community interest company this year. It’s started to take advertising with the aim of sustaining a part-time editor (Jeremy Morton) and now publishes a 5,000-copy monthly print edition.
Anyhows, TCT looks at cool and ‘happening’ stuff in Leeds – it has a young demographic which MSM media would give its right arm for and began as a Facebook page
It does look at some serious issues and carries in-depth interviews with leading city figures (and there are plans for it to do more of this in the future). It has a thriving print edition (a newspaper that young people actually read) that’s migrated from a 10,000 free distribution model in the city centre to being given away free once a month in the Yorkshire Evening Post.
It’s interesting how Johnston Press have reached out to Hebeworks to partner with them on this one. Collaboration between independent and mainstream local media operations are still uncommon, perhaps this could lead to other openings?
Hebe’s also grabbed a few sizeable grants to develop TCT and its various apps, notably from tech innovators Nesta. TCT has close links with Leeds Data Mill and is helping to lead the open data charge in the city. Look out for a TCT franchise in 2015 – Sheffield has already launched and there are plans for other UK cities like Manchester to follow suit.
Analyses and scrutinises civic stuff in Leeds, led with a bit of world-weary cynicism by the ubiquitous Quentin Kean. Plays a vital part of civic life, shedding light on issues barely often touched upon in mainstream media. Holds council and other organisations to account – an irritant on the flesh of the body politic of Leeds.
Subject matter is sometimes falls into the ‘dry but important’ category and is skilfully made relevant by Kean’s reader-friendly style. For me, Leeds’ most important blog – every city should have at least a dozen of these!
At its peak Culture Vulture not only reflected the cultural zeitgeist of Leeds and beyond, it also tackled big city issues, held on and offline debates (city mayor and transport ‘cultural conversations spring immediately to mind – and a cool Twin Peaks event) and really set the agenda in Leeds.
Its influence led to engagement with many civic leaders (and even guest posts on weighty subjects including the future of Leeds Kirkgate Market written by one or two of them).
A vibrant and engaged community of multiple contributors and commenters producing fresh and thought-proviking content ensured Culture Vulture was THE place to visit. Still relevant both geographically and as a community of interets, there’s some talk via stalwarts Phil Kirby and Emma Bearman of a relaunch and a new approach.
Edited by long-time village resident Bernard Mitchinson, a regularly updated blog reflecting day-to-day life and happenings in this lovely Wharfedale village on the outskirts of Leeds. Covers everything from local issues to groups like Pool History Group and the latest Chinese Brush Painting Newsletter. Includes an important directory linking residents to local groups, services and politicians etc.
Online version of the long-running Kirkstall Matters print magazine. Community information on what’s happening in the thriving community of Kirkstall, including a calendar of events and online discussion forums.
Celebrating its 10th birthday this year, NLL has carved out a real niche in the north of the city, featuring lighter community news, arts, entertainments, what’s on, reviews, listings, profiles and lifestyle content etc etc. At the heart of NLL is its print operation – a two-edition 40,000 circulation community lifestyle magazine. Impressively, it’s a self sustaining business.
Run by local resident Luke Beaumont, the blog does what it says on the tin, coverign the community of Holt Park and surrounding communities in the north west of the city with a mix of local news and events.
Run by local resident Jo Densley, this is a site based around the ‘About my Area’ national franchise. It focusses mainly on lighter news and what’s on in the LS7 area. You can see that it also has a thriving commercial side, with plenty of local businesses advertising on the site.
10. Adel Crag
Powered by the Adel Crag Community Association, provides news and what’s on information about the Adel area of north Leeds, featuring a regular crime report for the area and keeps a keen eye on greenbelt development.
I’m going to group these two Headingley sites together, although they are independent of each other. Not strictly a news site, but Headingley.org features a very vibrant whats on section and a lively forum for local residents to populate. This site shows everything going on in Headingley, including photographs. Headon.org features news, sport and what’s on and says it’s the source for everything that’s going on in Headingley.
Facebook-based – why aren’t more sites on Facebook? It’s where the audience is. Useful infiormation about what’s haoppening in Bramley in West Leeds.
And lastly a few print-only publications …
East Leeds Mag was launched in April 2009. This independently published bi-monthly magazine has its roots in Crossgates but broadens out to wider areas of Leeds 9, 14 & 15 with features of general interest making it a lively and informative read, mostly about people from the East Leeds area. It circulates 15,000 copies.
14. Rothwell Record
The Rothwell & District Record is a glossy A4, full colour, local news magazine. The magazine boasts an incredible 10,000 readership and is sold through 32 outlets within the Rothwell District.
They say nature abhors a vaccuum … so when JP closed the Pudsey Times free paper a few years ago, one of the publications that sprang out of it was the Pudsey Squeaker, 15,000 circulation A5 magazine which includes interviews, columnists, history and light news. The original Pudsey News newspaper – which closed late 70s I think – was affectionately called ‘The Squeaker’. Appropriately for a town which has seen two newspapers die in the last 30 years or so, The Squeaker is run out of Mahony and Ward funeral solicitors.
Last but not least there are a number of excellent community radio stations in the city, including South Leeds Community Radio, based in Beeston, East Leeds FM, Guiseley FM and Radio Poplar in Bramley.
And the future? I know there are lots of discussions going on – talk of a city wiki for Leeds, and you may want to keep your eyes peeled on @westleedslife for something Emma Bearman and I are cooking up.