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Hyperlocal site seeks funding for ‘hard news’

Readers of a hyperlocal news website in Wales are being asked to ‘pitch-in’ money to enable it to flourish.

The not-for-profit Port Talbot Magnet is run by directors and professional journalists and is described as a ‘social enterprise’ and a ‘community co-operative’.

With new stories written by volunteers it was set up to provide a local news and information service to the people and communities of Port Talbot which no longer has a local newspaper since the closure of the Port Talbot Courier two years ago.

The site was made possible by donations from directors and partners and is now seeking further funding through the Pitch-in scheme.

The scheme asks people to donate money to the site and to sponsor reporters in order for news to appear on the site.

An example of this would see someone sponsoring a court reporter for a day  

Rachel Howells, one of the directors and former editor of The Big Issue’s Welsh edition, said: “We have been trying to find a funding model for professional journalists to fill a gap in the area.

“There is only once source of news in the area and we are trying to plug the gap.

“Through the co-op we want to give writers the chance to be paid for stories about Port Talbot .”

She said this kind of funding model had not been done before in this way.

Said Rachel: “We only launched the site in April and have only just started branding it. We want people to be involved in the production of local news. We want to do council and court reporting but don’t have the resources to do that and want to throw it open to the people of Port Talbot.”

Asked if she thought members of the public would be willing to donate money in order for news to appear on the site, she added: “At the moment we just don’t know whether local people will pay for local news – this is really our bid to find out.

“It’s early days, and we haven’t really marketed the idea yet, but just framing the question in this way and giving people the opportunity to get involved has already paid dividends for us. We’ve already had some small donations, a few advertisers have made enquiries with us, and we’ve had an offer of premises in Port Talbot which we will be taking up.

“These things were not happening before we launched Pitch-in. It’s as though suddenly people have realised that we can’t produce local news in isolation and that if they want a local service they will have to help us out.”

“We’d like people to think of journalism as an essential part of society, like we think of education for everyone and free healthcare, but we’re not there yet. I don’t think people realise the scale of the closures and the job losses in journalism yet, and the knock-on effect they will have for the quality of information and investigation that happens at a local level.

“Perhaps they will begin to value local news more as it begins to diminish, like it already has in Port Talbot to a large extent.”

As part of Pitch-in journalists will also be able to submit story ideas which they will then be paid for if they are agreed with the board.

The story idea would firstly appear on the sites ‘targets’ page and once the target has been reached the journalist will then be commissioned to write the story.

The website is run by Local News South Wales Ltd, a social enterprise.

The board comprises eight professional journalists, and the co-op has around 20 members so far. The eight board members are Mike Burrows, Simon Davies, Rachel Howells, Andy Pearson, Claire Pearson, Ken Smith, Mike Witchell and Ingrid Bousquet.


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  • October 25, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Very noble aims, and Rachel lis obviously sincere in her belief that members of the public will pay writers to produce local stories.
    However, unless it’s the one about the cow flying over the moon it ain’t gonna happen. Sorry.

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  • October 25, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Not strictly true: ‘…Port Talbot which no longer has a local newspaper since the closure of the Port Talbot Courier…’

    The South Wales Evening Post has a Neath and Port Talbot edition.

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