As we highlighted a couple of months ago, one of the promises made by the new council administration was to close down the official council newspaper Outlook. Earlier this week, it was announced that the next edition of Outlook, due out next week will be the last. There will now be a review on what would be the most effective way for the council to communicate with the public. One suggestion in the mix of proposals for Outlook’s replacement is to use that budget to fund community newspapers. Outlook had a budget of £200,000 a year.
It is very encouraging to see community newspapers being given more priority and consideration and it would be great to have a thriving local media network across the city that reflected the views and interests of local communities.
Whilst paper media is probably still what most people would choose, there are a growing number of new media outlets that offer scope for training around digital skills and online experience. The Olympic torch relay in Scotland is being covered by Citizen Relay, a project that relies on local people to report on the relay at a neighbourhood level. Citizen reporters have been able to access training and are using a variety of online media to report their stories and news. The Sentinel used to offer training and placement experience to local people including young people who gained experience in writing and producing articles and pages. Online citizen reporting offers a similar experience that can be built on for further training and/or employment.
Whatever shape the new Wester Hailes community media has if funded through the closure of Outlook, it will remain crucial to its success and sustainability that it has an independent voice. It will also be important that the resulting publication is managed by local residents and that it raises a range of issues and concerns as well as providing information and news. There are a range of community led projects currently developing in Wester Hailes around an online Sentinel model and it is hoped that any funding input would be looking at what is already happening. It will be interesting to see the results of the planned review and what it is then recommended.