So on Monday I was involved in the foundation of the board of a social enterprise soon-to-be company called West Leeds Community Media. The company board, made up of eight West Leeds lifers, will oversee the development and growth of West Leeds Dispatch, a hyper-local site covering Armley, Bramley, Kirkstall, Pudsey, Farsley, Farnley, Rodley, Wortley, Stanningley and Calverley and other areas in-between.
The Dispatch was founded almost two years ago by my former Wakefield Express colleague John Baron, who is the editor of the site, and Emma Bearman, a social-enterprise expert in West Leeds.
The site has already made its mark both digitally and, as a one-off, in print since its launch, with a healthy contributor base and a growing number of online users, so it’s really exciting to be involved in the future development and growth of the Dispatch.
I have a strong belief that the appetite for local news has not diminished in recent years, but the methods of accessing and the definition of news itself have changed dramatically. While titles like my former haunt the Yorkshire Evening Post continue to provide a vital service in the city, there simply isn’t capacity for them alone to cover the grassroots, hyper-local issues and interests of everyone in Leeds. Holding to account, sharing information, giving a voice to disparate groups and celebrating successes is still important and hyper-local sites fill the gap that traditional news providers are struggling to meet.
So rather than taking away, in my mind hyper-local news compliments and adds to the options available to people looking for information at a grassroots level.
And the opportunities are so exciting! In the coming months the board will be exploring the aims and intentions of the Dispatch, forming a constitution, examining methods of information sharing and working with residents in West Leeds to help them take an active role in the site.
There’s lots more information about the project here – so please do shout up if you’d like to be involved, we’d love to hear from you!