An innovative media event featuring rapper-turned-activist Lowkey is happening in Sheffield at the end of May. And everyone’s invited to join its ‘club’.
Ahead of the event, The Canary spoke to a number of the people involved, including Guardian and Media Diversified writer Maya Goodfellow and Real Media editor and founder Kam Sandhu.
A real media revolution
Real Media is a cooperative of independent journalists, dedicated to public interest news and challenging mainstream media distortion. It organises numerous events throughout the UK, and aims to provide an alternative to the established press. In 2016, it launched the ‘Media Fund‘, a collective of independent news outlets. The idea is a straightforward one: the public become members and donate on a monthly basis, to support the outlets.
The money gets divided up, with small portions going to the donation software host and the Media Fund itself. Then, the fund splits the rest between the outlets and a “Project Fund“. This goes towards specific projects that the outlets have pitched. The members vote on which projects they want to see happen.
A new initiative
Since its launch, the Media Fund has gone from strength to strength. Now, it’s taking the idea of independent news and analysis across the country, launching its ‘News Clubs’.
The Canary caught up with the fund’s Kallum Pembro and others. We talked mainstream press, democracy and why we need an independent media.
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The News Clubs
Pembro told The Canary that the News Clubs were for “news hounds” to debate the week’s hot topics; but that they also aimed to cut through the headlines to get to the real stories:
News Club Live is a live debate show… that combines a panel of experts with a room full of news hounds to dissect the news stories of the week, taking apart what has been reported and uncovering what has been left out.
The Sheffield club is the first one the Media Fund has put on. But it is a precursor to more of them. Pembro said there’ll be:
a series of grassroots projects… News Clubs in Manchester, Dorset, London and Liverpool will bring local people together to critically evaluate local news and issues.
A festival of debate
News Club Sheffield is part of the Festival of Debate that’s happening in the city between April and June this year. It works with more than 40 different organisations to host over 70 events during its three-month run. From theatre about the end of the world to debate about Basic Income, via protest storytelling, the festival is a melting pot of ideas, opinions and beliefs.
The founder of the Festival of Debate, Sam Walby, told The Canary that the News Club’s part in the festival is “vital” because we live:
in an era when mainstream media spend more time trying to decipher Donald Trump’s rambling tweets than they do discussing the real issues…
We can learn a lot from what the media is not saying… It’s no wonder people are turning their backs on it. ‘Fake news’ has existed for a lot longer than Trump’s presidency, and it’s our job to call it out.
Avoiding the echo chamber
Meanwhile, Sandhu told The Canary:
We’ve never been so bombarded with news and messaging. So it’s important to… discuss the interests behind the information we see and the veracity of that information – but sometimes, most importantly, where the silences and omissions remain.
Goodfellow echoed Sandhu’s thoughts, telling The Canary:
Analysing what’s behind news articles and what conventional stereotypes they rely on has always been an important function of critical politics. Understanding and challenging the racialised and gendered tropes that underline some reporting is essential if we’re to produce media that speaks truth to power.
It’s often easy to get caught in between extremes in the modern media age. On the one hand, the printed media is becoming more and more distrusted. But on the other, talk of ‘fake news‘ and ‘echo chambers‘ dominates online discourse. So it is refreshing to see some ‘hands on’, ‘real life’ action from independent media.
The rise of the News Club looks like a promising addition to 21st-century debate.
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