Scotland’s ‘alternative media’ has a long way to go if it is to succeed

60
15311
Gordon Brown's political obituary

G.A. Ponsonby, a founder and former editor of Newsnet.scot, presents a personal view on where Scotland’s ‘alternative media’ should go next…

It’s a term that was thrown about with abandon during the referendum campaign – “New Media”.  The internet had given birth to several new online “news & views” vendors and now Newsnet, Bella and Wings were going to take on the traditional media.

At last, we thought, the voting public has an antidote to the poisonous misinformation emanating from traditional outlets.

But it didn’t pan out as hoped.  Yes lost the referendum.  The scare stories and lies seeped into the public consciousness.  Too many people believed what they read and heard.  The ‘New Media’ had little impact.

The truth is there never was a new media.  Three solitary websites [four if you counted National Collective, now defunct] each with their own message could no more take on the might of the traditional media than three lone voices with their own unique chant can out-shout several thousand football fans singing in unison.

That’s not to say there isn’t talent out there.  There’s bundles of it.  It’s just that during the referendum it was uncoordinated and scattered.  And it still is.  There is still no cooperation or cross-pollination.  There is also an unhealthy tendency to see other sites as a rival as opposed to an ally.

There has been a move by the Common Weal to address this lack of cooperation.  An event has been promoted on twitter.  In the blurb for the event the Common Weal says:

Join us for a celebration of the new media in Scotland six months on from CommonSpace’s launch. A host of Scotland’s other new media outlets and bloggers will be there for the party, as well as guest speakers, DJs, documentary screenings and some IRL media activities.

I wish them success.  But I have a feeling that this type of event is unlikely to lead to the kind of change required if the so-called ‘New Media’ is to challenge the traditional media in any meaningful sense.

UnknownThe traditional media’s strength lies in its ability to speak with one voice.  How many times have you seen a contrived bit of anti-SNP propaganda appear across the traditional news media?  The story appears in one newspaper.  It’s picked up by another, then another.  More often than not it finds its way onto the airwaves of the BBC.

Before long the anti-SNP propaganda is being debated and discussed on TV and radio by the very editors and writers who created it.  It’s reinforced through repetition and embeds itself in the public psyche.

In the middle of the recent general election campaign, a memo now known to contain inaccurate claims regarding Nicola Sturgeon was all set to become headline news before it was exposed as a fraud.  The usual suspects in the media, including the BBC, were already headlining it just as it was being debunked.  The SNP got lucky when a traditional journalist, Severin Carrell, contacted the French Consul in Edinburgh.  The French rubbished the story and the rest is history.

Would Bella, Newsnet or Wings have been able to wheedle out the truth from the French in the way that Carrell did?  Not as things stand they wouldn’t.  They aren’t designed to chase down news stories.

If we are to create a new media worthy of the name then we must face the reality that what we currently have is no more a ‘new media’ than an opinionated pub-bore is a persuasive orator.  Our so-called new media is a hotchpotch of disconnected opinions and views, with the odd angry rant at newspapers thrown in.

So what do we lack and what do we do?

The main weakness in what passes for this new media is news, or rather a lack of it.  When I was part of the old Newsnet team we tried to publish at least two relevant news stories each and every day.

Wings Over Scotland's indyref tome, Wee Blue Book
Wings Over Scotland’s indyref tome, Wee Blue Book

One of the benefits of this approach was that we were able to headline stories that the pro-Union media was trying to suppress.  Indeed on more than one occasion the traditional media itself was the story.  We were also prepared to use the research from sites like Wings over Scotland and turn Stuart Campbell’s more sensational exposés into news stories.

The other benefit to daily news content was that visitors to the site saw not an opinion piece, which they could dismiss as partisan, but a factual news item which carried more weight.

A serious issue at the heart of the new media is an appalling duplication of effort.  I’ve lost count of the number of appeals from people who want to provide a broadcast service.  Immediately after the referendum result an appeal was launched that hoped to raise enough cash for a nightly news programme.  The cash – tens of thousands if I recall correctly – was raised but the project failed [or stalled].

The same group are currently running another appeal for ten grand for their NewsShaft venture, which is centred around a regular podcast.  The site itself is rather well put together, but how many people are visiting?  Another group – Left Scotland – recently raised £8,200 of its £11,000 target in order to create ‘a full digital channel’.

But why do we need more than one group capable of producing high-quality broadcast output?  Why not consolidate skills and create a centre of excellence that can be tapped into by all?  Create a central studio complete with the best people and equipment.  Other outlets simply commission work.

The internet is strewn with appeals from pro-indy groups who believe their project is worthy.  The appeal usually promises they will create the best/alternative/definitive/ new media [insert your own hyperbole]. Most never get anywhere near their target.  Some do, but then fail to make any significant impact beyond their own regular visitors.

I estimate that during and after the independence referendum, pro-independence ventures managed to secure well over half a million pounds from countless appeals.  If we’re honest with ourselves we have to acknowledge that the cash hasn’t led to any significant improvement in online content.  There has been little if any online (r)evolution.  Considerable amounts of cash has being wasted.

One appeal that has recently succeeded is the Bella Caledonia appeal.  Over fifty grand now sits in its bank account.  I donated a tenner to the appeal.  I did it because of a pledge to cooperate with other sites and bloggers.  I have for some time believed that no influential new media is possible unless those who control the established outlets begin to work together.

I’d like to see real cooperation amongst those with the resource.  Not just regular meetings but a real collective organisation whose purpose is to bring the new media content to as many people as possible.

I’d like to see a central portal created and agreed whereby the best of the online media can be collated regularly and republished freely.  Let’s face it, all of the established outlets Newsnet, Bella, Wings and Common Space occasionally publish stuff that isn’t quite up to scratch.  It isn’t uncommon to find pieces that are poorly drafted, maybe jagged to read or worst of all indulgent & boring [ouch!].

They do though produce content that is unquestionably of an extremely high quality and thought provoking.

Imagine a single website [portal] containing the best of Bateman’s interviews, Bella’s idea pieces, Wings debunking and the Ginger Dug’s satire.  Such a site could offer a very real challenge to the pro-Union media.  ‘The Portal’ would also include the very best from other peripheral bloggers.  And I mean all of the other online contributors and not just the elite clique that is slowly creeping into and hogging the ‘New Media’.

London Calling, by G.A. Ponsonby
London Calling, by G.A. Ponsonby

There would be challenges of course.  Who would decide what pieces appeared in ‘The Portal’?  How would it be funded?  There’s also the question of promoting the umbrella site.  How would the public learn of its existence?  None of these are showstoppers and goodwill from the current big three of Bella, Wings and Newsnet would ensure a regular supply of extremely high quality content from its inception.

I think recent history demonstrates that no single site can hope to challenge the traditional media on its own.  With Unionists now gearing up for Project Fear MkII in a bid at thwarting Full Fiscal Autonomy it is essential that those on the pro-indy side band together.

The lessons of the referendum need to be learned.  Let’s not fail because we believed our own hype.

G.A. Ponsonby now blogs at Ponsonby Post. His book London Calling is also available there.

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

60 COMMENTS

  1. I like the idea of a portal where you can access all the sites, and my suggestion would be that it is advertised conventionally so that it reaches beyond those who already know about these sites.

    But I wouldn’t want the individuality of those sites to disappear. I confess to actually quite liking thr imperfections. One day you find something really thought provoking, the next day might disappoint. But that’s experimentation. A bit like the Fringe. It’s part of the excitement.

    .

  2. London Calling should be a compulsory text book for all history students. Still reading and re reading.

  3. Agree absolutely about the need for news as opposed to comment. The best of old NNS was their phone up/write and ask if such and such is true and for comment thereon (i.e. good old fashioned check-it-out journalism).

    When it was ‘reported’ that supermarkets said prices would go up in an independent Scotland NNS simply phoned the likes of Tesco and asked if it was true and they said no it would depend on market conditions etc. And on the odd occasion NNS produced an original news story as opposed to a response article to some fantasy stuff in the MMS.

    As for an overall approach, not before time, and with limited resources a portal seems a good idea.

  4. How about a freely distributed Newspaper, possibly Monthly which includes news stories from all major players in online news. Financed by crowd funding i.e. 30,000 would potentially cost less than £3000 to print + delivery. Distributed by volunteers using the vast network of independence supporters.

    • The National has proven such a production could be viable. In some ways Newsquest has stolen a march on the ‘new media’ which should have collaborated long before now to create a regular hard copy.

      • Unless your open minded you won’t jump ship to read a different newspaper. Readers are fiercely loyal to there paper unless the paper is free i.e. The Metro. We need to expose people to the idea that there is an alternative news, we should explore all avenues not to change readers minds but to allow them to be informed, to make an educated choice. “Free” does allow this to happen.

          • Advertising would allow some of the costs to be met. Initial runs would be helped by crowdfunding. I’d wager that a large proportion of subscribers to the National would make regular donations to help.

        • Problem is, you can then only distribute in highly populated areas. I live in the Highlands and would therefore never see a copy! Would have to have a buy/ subscribe option. Also I agree, this would all be more possible if the various new media got together. I too have donated via crowdfunding to a few, some of which have succeeded and some not – makes sense to me if they all shared whatever money was collected?

    • I actually produced something similar to what you are suggesting during the campaign. I would trawl my way through a myriad of sites, cherrypick the best articles, print them, staple them together then hand them out to friends and acquaintances. The end result was a bit amateurish and disjointed, ( different font sizes) but they seemed to go down well. Cost me a fortune on ink mind and it was helluva time consuming, however, if this was done more proficiently, I think there could be a substantial and appreciative readership.
      Financed by advertising? Worth a thought.
      London Calling has to be one of the most important books written G A Ponsonby. Thank you for the work that you have done in exposing this corruption.

      • Thanks for the kind comment re: my book.

        Yes, several people suggested a collaboration during the indyref. At Newsnet we operated [and promoted] a policy that allowed anybody to reproduce any article we published. We received absolutely no feedback or interest from any other of the established outlets. They of course could and probably were too busy, but if they themselves had adopted a similar policy then a lot more people may have been exposed to some fantastic content. Newsnet would have republished many other articles.

        I know the people behind our ‘Duggy Dug’ animations were genuinely bemused that none of the other sites mentioned the character which we found went down very well especially with female voters.

  5. As an avid reader of all of the sites you mention here, and a subscriber/donater to some of them as well, I agree that there should be more co-operation rather than competition between them all to present a unified message to compete with the mainstream media.
    However, based on the indy vote, I would guess that at least half of the population of Scotland don’t refer to any these sites at all for their news/propaganda, depending instead on the BBC and Murdoch rags instead.

    After reading your excellent book and the work of Prof. John Robertson, and noting that the BBC criticism of the Scottish Government and Parliament is still on-going and seems perpetual as long as the SNP is in power (Scottish NHS chaos or fiscal black hole, anyone?) I am curious as to why the SNP aren’t more vociferous in demanding devolution of broadcast powers.

    There is a parallel here with the left/right divide in politics – the left is always fracturing into smaller groupings with different messages or emphases, but the neo-liberal right is consistent in its narratives. How else could Osborne get away with his economic lies to the electorate about the ‘importance’ of the defecit and his ability to control it, if he wasn’t backed up by most print publications and the uncritical subservient BBC?
    The Guardian is a notable exception, recently publishing a damning article by a group of real economists rubbishing his 1930’s style ‘sound finance’ incompetence and describing the sectoral balances that really matter.

    We really need to get our narrative consistent in terms of timing and content to have a snowflake in hell’s chance of counter-acting the big loud propaganda machine that ironically, we all pay for…..what’s all that about, then?

    • I agree with your post. I was genuinely frustrated that no new media site [save for Derek Bateman] highlighted the John Boothman bullying story. It is and was massive. The BBC is the logistical supply line for getting the pro-Union message into homes, it is the number one opponent as far as independence or FFA is concerned.

      Not just because I wrote it, but my book ‘London Calling’ about the BBC’s conduct before and during the referendum campaign, should have been acknowledged by other outlets in addition to Newsnet [Derek Bateman did a fantastic review]. Even the Daily Record allowed Joan McAlpine to plug it. But as far as I can see only Newsnet and BBC Scotlandshire [excellent satirical site] gave it a mention. I don’t know why the others have ignored it.

      • With great respect, Derek Bateman’s review markedly does not budge on his oft-reiterated insistence that there was no “deliberate bias” at Pacific Quay. Since trenchant imputation of such bias is the critical dynamic of your seminal book, let us not miss the deft gelding behind Bateman’s gilding:

        “He [Ponsonby] constantly points out this kind of unbalanced treatment which for those of us unconvinced by the claim of deliberate political bias is troubling. My answer I think, is that what he reveals is a lack of good journalism which wouldn’t merely report what some official source has released for broadcast…This [book] is systematic and at time brutal stuff that unearths failings in BBC journalism that could have been overcome if, in my view, internal oversight had been good enough, standards set high enough and had staff not been run ragged by poor management and relentless budget cuts.”
        http://newsnet.scot/2015/06/london-calling-bbc-news-and-its-scottish-problem/

  6. ps to above comment – time for some fun.

    I’ve always liked the GA mystery –

    God Almighty
    Giddy Aunt
    General Anaesthetic
    Good All-rounder
    Girls Allowed

    Feel free to add your personal favourite.

    • GA just uses that acronym so he can wander around with his initials on all this clothes and baseball hats.

  7. Many thanks for your time and effort with the ground-breaking book.

    I feel the reasons it hasn’t been put in the public domain is simply that it’s content would be far too damaging to BBC and would imagine with their track record it will be stifled with extreme prejudice.

    I feel that online news and events sites have their place-how would we have managed without them-
    but until Scotland has TV Broadcast controls it will be difficult to counter the avalanche of MSN disinformation.

  8. Here is a quote from a comment I made on Derek Bateman’s blog last September: “I think any action has to be co-ordinated and brought under one internet portal so that all the players are easy to find. We also need to have something to provide the intellectual framework to challenge the Establishment hegemony of political and economic thought and put forward a left of centre alternative and the case for Independence.”

    I agree with much of the above article: co-operation is essential if we are not going to dissipate our energies, and if we are going to reach a larger audience. But that’s only half the story. I have argued over the past year that we also need a left of centre, independence supporting professional Think Tank to counter the misinformation and lies from the unionist/neoliberal Establishment. Gordon Wilson said something similar recently. Wings, Business for Scotland and others perform heroically, but we need to be able to go that extra step and produce well-researched and argued papers that have academic recognition.

    And I agree “London Calling…” is arguably the most important book to come out of the referendum.

    • Again, thanks for the kind words re: my book. If the Ed won’t mind I’ll add a link between the asterisks to where it can be ordered:
      *******************************
      http://LondonCalling.scot
      *******************************

      Common Space have organised an event on June 21st at The Art School, 20 Scott St, Glasgow [https://www.facebook.com/events/840972362624376/]

      It’s a good idea and a start that I reference it in my article. Much more is needed if a real cooperative ‘New Media’ is to be a reality. There is an argument that content on Crowdfunded sites should be considered ‘open source’ in the same way that software code is open source – i.e. free for anyone to use. This would allow the best to be freely reproduced and disseminated. It would also allow a variety of mediums to carry the content.

  9. I read and enjoy a wide range of the pro-indy blogs and sites. I recently subscribed to the National because I was increasingly aware that I had no apparent reliable source of wider news. I don’t regret subscribing but doing so has made me more aware of how limited news coverage actually is in a newspaper. I’m not sure I am any further forward in my pursuit of day to day knowledge.

    I will lend my support to any genuine attempt to try to create a credible and ethical medium. I wonder, however, how we avoid falling into the trap of aping what is out there already in the form of the MSM and the BBC. That is a big challenge.

    In the meantime I think the alternative media we have is great, most importantly because it is diverse and interactive. The diversity makes it difficult for the establishment to control it and the interactive nature of it allows me to learn from the many comments that ordinary people make.

  10. I like the idea of a ‘portal’… it should include a version of Newsnet radio & also a NewsShaft-type TV program.

    Initial funding should/could come from the crowd-funding which Wings, NewsShaft Stephen Paton etc. have already accrued.

    Advertising on the Glasgow Unnergrun, London Tube, The National, Big Issue, Metro etc. Word will soon spread…

    I try & achieve the spread of articles, which you detail, on the Yes Alliance website { https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9Yd8j9eRPQ } & further through various FB SNP pages spread across the UK.

  11. PS.. Your book is a clear expose of the workings of some senior staff in BBC Scotland and, like others, I can’t quite understand why our own govt. is not pushing harder for broadcasting to be devolved… even though Wastemonster will not relinquish control of a valuable tool until the very last despite David C’s recent attempt to ‘regulate’ the BBC to ensure impartiality during the up-coming EU referendum.. (Good luck wi’ that one Dave!)

    Thanks again for the book… invaluable…

    PPS Mean to include http://scotgoespop.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/does-scottish-affairs-select-committee.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ScotGoesPop+%28SCOT+goes+POP%21%29
    in my previous post…

  12. Completely agree and think it’s critical such a move happens ASAP
    Maybe we already have the base structure for that collaboration in the “arcofprosperity” website ?

  13. Interesting article with lots of good points. One point I would pick up on is the suggestion that we need is yet another web-based platform. If new Scottish media really is ambitious then it needs to look at other platforms that can compete, albeit in a small way initially, with mainstream broadcast, be sustainable and even provide a much needed revenue stream.

    One area new Scottish media outlets could look at is live OnlineTV broadcasting. Something like this was tried during indyref (Referendum TV) but it is definitely worth looking again at properly resourced, high quality programming. Common Weal, Bella, Newsnet etc could establish this by pooling money to a total of around 10-15K for set-up and pilot period. The budget would allow a high quality broadcasting set-up that would give outlets a bigger presence and reach new audiences who would feed back into their main sites. There are various issues that would have to be addressed: shaping the editorial/content; training a core production team: finding a studio space (perhaps at a university campus with superfast broadband). New media outlets already have editorial teams and training/facilities are not huge challenges.

    What you want to create is a really tight, well produced show with high production values and interesting content. The pilot studio show might go out one evening a week for two months and build from there. In terms of content, the show would be shot on multiple HD cameras to include items/ presenters/adverts from each of the outlets. I believe a well-produced show that had a good balanced mix of politics, news items, exclusive interviews as well as a broader cultural element of music, stand-up comedy, arts reviews. This would appeal to existing followers and new viewers to grow to a sizable audience – something like 50,000 really is achievable.

    The crowdfunding that most new media outlets rely on is not ideal and we need to look at other finance models. Once you have built a sizable audience for the programme, the opportunity to attract sponsor finance becomes a reality. This finance could be used sustain or build the programme or even feed back into the web outlets. There may be additional opportunities to license content/exclusive material to other news outlets. The studio space could also provide revenue stream through hiring out the facility or offering training. All this is before looking at the possibility of arts grants/match funding.

    The endurance, creativity and quality of the work being done by new media outlets on the web is already competing with mainstream. There is a huge hunger out there for a programme of this kind and it is absolutely possible. We just need to get above ourselves.

    I would appreciate replies and feedback from anyone interested in developing this idea.

    • Thanks for posting your comment.

      This is an attractive idea, but similar to the one that the NewsShaft group tried to get going. I’m not sure the New Media is close to being able to create this type of broadcast content. It is very expensive and would require significant initial outlay. I’d argue that a better move might be to put pressure on BBC Scotland to allow the New Media the opportunity to produce short broadcast items for inclusion in current affairs shows.

      David Torrance was recently allowed a five and a half minute slot on Radio Scotland to broadcast his views on politicians who lie. There is no reason why a similar slot could not be provided to the New Media. Pro-Union newspapers are promoted by the BBC and their editors regularly appear in current affairs shows. But there appears to be some kind of bar on the alternative media appearing. We need to break this censorial attitude at BBC Scotland.

      The weakness of the online media was evident this weekend. How many sites have highlighted the bullying allegations against the head of news at BBC Scotland? Only Derek Bateman has given it any profile at all. It is a chance to increase public awareness and apply a little pressure on BBC Scotland management, but it appears to have passed them by.

      • I see a few mentions of the newsshaft/news Scotland Cic plans, but always in the past tense, always assumed to have failed.

        2 things: the money we raised in 2014 was to fund a full time team of people to raise the money required for 3 months. We didn’t raise that money, but we’re still working full time towards essentially the same thing, and none of us have had a holiday since 2013. The 2nd point is this, and it’s the thing no one really seems to be aware of, the budgets required for even the most modest of video production/broadcasting are so far outwith the figures mentioned in many of these comments. For example, for a weekly magazine show (as suggested above), broadcast online – £15,000 wouldn’t even buy you the cameras, never mind all the mics, lights, cabling, premises etc, and that’s before you even begin thinking about paying for people’s time, or a broadband connection, or an electricity bill, or being ready to accommodate things breaking, or going wrong (which they would, all the time).

        This illustrates the real problem with alternative media, like the traditional media, it needs money – and it needs a lot more than it currently takes in.

          • Yes, probably. The figure I gave was for set-up and pilot. I mentioned several other revenue streams that would be needed to make it sustainable.

        • Thanks for taking the time to post a comment Jack. I have visited your site and commented in the article how good it looks. I like the design.

          The broadcast issue is one I highlighted specifically because it requires so much cash. I wonder how you would feel about renting/hiring out equipment or studio space from a central source. It seems to me that there will be more people yet to encounter the same issues as you have.

          When we at the old Newsnet wanted to do video, we simply commissioned it from a small team of professionals. They provided their own lighting, audio equipment and camera.

          • GA
            We need to think about practical solutions not just worst case. In answer to kit hire – you insure your kit and get clients to leave deposit and sign to cover repair. I have a colleague who works in production hire and does very well. We need to be thinking of small revenue streams like this.

        • Enjoy your show, Jack.
          Sorry, don’t agree on those figures. I’ve costed studio set-up and can be done within that budget range. Other aspects of space and initial running costs can be overcome. Financing is key issue and needs to be looked at commercially eg hiring out studio and kit, selling media training and production etc but unless you can access public/arts funding sponsorship is really the only way out of crowdfund model. Indie media needs to get down to business in next year or so or long term some outlets won’t survive.

  14. Thanks for reply. Until broadcasting is devolved I don’t see much chance of any real inclusion of pro-indy voices so maybe that’s where we should be focussing pressure.
    The cost of online broadcasting is absolutely possible eg new Blackmagic multi camera studio could be set up for £6k and plenty of articulate creative talent within the new Scottish media to deliver such a programme. There’s a significant opportunity here.
    The Boothman story is difficult to push because BBC management never respond or engage in issues and we couldn’t expect BBC staff to express views publicly. I shared Guardian and Derek’s piece but we’re banging our heads against the wall here. A well produced that’s widely watched online show could gather real pressure on such issues and embarrass the BBC into action. We should at least seriously explore and discuss the possibilities of one.

  15. The way the ‘Old Media’ bands together for a story is part of the problem. I don’t want the ‘New Media’ to do that. I want them to check the sources; not follow like meh-ing sheep.

    The papers chase each others’ stories to avoid being left at the back of the next day’s headlines and lose out on circulation. They are the scavengers of society, chasing the scraps of its happenings and occasionally banding together to attack and devour a target.

    Hyenas seems the nearest approximation, while some in the ‘New Media’ can be likened to Cheetahs. They generally choose their kills separately, but get forgotten if the hyenas pop up to feed. I find it amazing that the ‘Old Media’ don’t use the ‘New Media’ and take away their thunder. Perhaps the narrative is too against the grain of their tradition methods:

    – stick to an agenda, rather than report a story fairly

    and / or

    – ignore or withhold source due to it probably being tentative

    and / or

    – make the most out of a nothing story by invention or omission

    Make no mistake though. The ‘New Media’ steal material too. I’ve seen smaller sources come up with news (publicly available) first, and larger ones take it and call it their own (to the point of printing verbatim). If you want a real ‘New Media’ get regulation is place first, and see which ones sign up.

  16. GA’s comments make a lot of sense.

    I’m working with a team who’re developing a newsfeed/mashup website and app that will fill part of the lacuna mentioned. It will aggregate and categorise content from new media as well as MSM, giving readers across the spectra of politics and knowledge a way to see a ‘bigger picture’ from a Scottish perspective.

    It’s not a panacea, but the site is aimed at solving just the kind of issues GA raises here: the isolation of alternative media outlets from each other, the groupthink of the mainstream, and the underexposure of swathes of the population to dissenting voices.

    There’ll be a trial launch this week (Thursday). You’ll be able to find it at http://champit.scot … no crowdfunding begs involved, but feedback will be sought.

  17. I’m the editor of CommonSpace. We produce news stories in double figures every day, we have a full time team of journalists and we work extremely collaboratively with the other new media outlets, and we are in constant communication about how we can move things forward while all retaining our own individual identities.

    Wings has a very different identity to Bella, for example, while the content of CommonSpace is very different to both of them. We all take different editorial stances on things, and it’s actually quite important in my view to keep that variety.

    We also work collaboratively with mainstream outlets, and a string of our stories have been picked up by them. We think it’s important to breakdown the us vs them mentality and try to improve both the new media and the mainstream media.

    Other new media outlets in Scotland have been and continue to be very open to working together where we can, and Bella Caledonia has begun hosting regular meetings at which we can explore anything from content approaches to future financial models.

    I recently spoke at an alternative media conference in England, where people were actually envious of the new media network we have created in Scotland and its ability to make an impact.

    Scotland voted No on 18 September, but I firmly believe the numbers would not have been so close if it hadn’t been for the contribution of the new media and its effect in balancing out the overwhelmingly unionist media with news and views from an alternative side.

    However, people must examine what it is they want from the new media moving forward. If it is a means to achieving independence or a political aim, it’s as much a propaganda machine as the mainstream media.

    If people truly want a media that can inform, represent a wide range of views, investigate power and hold it to account for the benefit of the people and not for the benefit of an ideology or political idea, it will take time and effort to build.

    • Hi Angela, good to see someone from the other sites on here and prepared to engage.

      I look in on Common Space now and again and have noticed you do news. Some good pieces today. As a matter of fact I recall you questioned Jim Murphy during the election campaign and I praised your journalism on twitter. What you guys are trying to create is different from my own ‘vision’. Good luck to you in your quest.

      It’s not quite about creating a propaganda machine, it’s more about equalising the playing surface. There is no shortage of people scrutinising the SNP/Scottish Government, thus there is no need for any other outlet to do this. That’s not to say content shouldn’t occasionally criticise the SNP, it’s just that there is a glut of that thing already.

      An alternative or ‘New Media’ won’t play by the rules set by the traditional MSM. The new media sets its own rules. There are times when the traditional media *itself* is the news. Newsnet frequently exposed the BBC and Wings does the same with newspapers and more. Both used to expose the Labour party and Better Together. Bella seems to me to be more an idea kind of site. That might change now that Mike has fifty grand to invest.

      I don’t doubt your willingness to cooperate and hope it leads to expansion of the ‘New Media’. I might pop along to the Common Weal event on Sunday.

      Finally, might I suggest you have a look at a book that I have published. ‘London Calling – How the BBC stole the Referendum’. Yep, it’s a plug!

  18. What I want from the New media, apart from supporting Independence, fairness, equity and redistribution and not supporting neoliberalism, is honest truthful journalism instead of the lies, smears and pure invention which is the common currency of most of the msn.

    It’s big claim to say the new media influenced the vote substantially and I wonder what evidence there is for that. However, if readers can’t find you then it’s all in vain, which is where a portal would be useful – a sort of index, like the BBC’s website where you can find most of what it does (apart from bullying of course) in just one or two pages.

    We also need a Think Tank, as I explained above but I also think the SG should set up an independent Office of Social Responsibility, like the OBR, which would examine how government decisions affect social objectives of fairness etc and how they impinge on different sectors of society, especially the poorest.

  19. I would appreciate if your readers could look at iScot Magazine, a grass roots monthly publication which has a clear pro Scottish agenda. Now in its 6th issue it started as a modestly funded indiegogo project,. The publication is available in both print and digital versions. http://www.iscot.scot

  20. I think this portal idea or some kind of umbrella organisation will be essential in making any future alternative media ventures work. There’s been loads of new developments since the referendum e.g. the National being founded (which is HUGE), Left Scotland, Common Space, even iScot Magazine and the remnants of the Scots Independent newspaper all developing and changing. We need some kind of umbrella organisation to promote cooperation between the various initiatives.

    I think one thing I would say though is that rather than trying to found a free newspaper like the Metro just yet, why not try to work with the National team as closely as possible and make it a better paper? The National is great, it sells but it needs so much more work if we’re to bring it up to scratch. The National can be our paper for now.

  21. No one has mentioned the Scots Independent a monthly newspaper for independence. Personally although I subscribe I don’t feel it is dynamic. It fails in many respects, one being that it doesn’t utilise the new online media also its reach/market appears to be SNP members only.

  22. The BBC’s current mission is to attempt to resuscitate Labour’s Northern Branch Office.

    Thought for years that one big high quality web site is the best solution. If there’s only one site it will be better known. Good to hear an effort is being made to analyse the pro Indy web offering.

  23. There should be a Scottish Government digital TV/Radio service. If it can’t be established
    nationally because of Regulatory reasons then at least establish it within each large urban area.

  24. Some of this is a bit odd.

    ‘ Yes lost the referendum. The scare stories and lies seeped into the public consciousness. Too many people believed what they read and heard. The ‘New Media’ had little impact. The truth is there never was a new media. ‘

    This is just nonsense.

    That we didn’t manage to create from scratch an equivalent to the BBC, is true, but the new media played a profound impact on winning the campaign, even if we lost the referendum. To think otherwise is plain wrong.

    Secondly, the premise that a biased media lost us the referendum is also lazy and dangerous. It allows us to dwell in an unthinking unreflective space where we take no responsibility for the Yes campaign or the faults and problems of the SNP.

    Third, the black and white idea that old media bad / new media good is also simplistic. You argue that Sev Carrell broke the French Consul story. ‘Would Bella, Newsnet or Wings have been able to wheedle out the truth from the French in the way that Carrell did? Not as things stand they wouldn’t. They aren’t designed to chase down news stories.” Well Wings is and does, regularly. What was wrong with Severin breakage the story? Good for him. Good journalism.

    Fourth. You seemed unaware of CommonSpace and describe Bella as ‘mainly an ideas site’. Yeah ideas! Who needs them!

    Fifth. The move for ‘convergence’ comes back again abad again but it seems to assume that this will somehow revolutionise something. Anyone with 1/2 hour and RSS feeds could do it.

    Sixth. The description of someone printing and stapling the best stories is really depressing.

    Seventh. We are already coordinating amongst alto media – did your colleagues on Newsnet nortel you?

    • Thanks for your comment Mike. Just to clarify, I am not part of the new Newsnet [Read the editor’s comment below], I handed everything over to the new guys just after the referendum.

      I won’t respond to any of the other counter-points you make. People can read my article and your subsequent comment and reach their own conclusion as to whether you have made valid points or have misinterpreted.

  25. There’s a job going at Pacific Quay in the news department.

    Good opportunity there for someone (Mr Ponsonby, Mr Bateman)!

  26. Thanks everybody for comments. We published GA’s piece partly because as a co-founder of the original Newsnet Scotland he offers a view that’s worth debating. We think he was also being provocative in order to make us all think about where we take the new media next (collectively, as separate sites and as readers / supporters). GA moved away from NNS partly to write his book but continues to contribute to the site (did he mention writing a book, by any chance?)

    For what it’s worth Newsnet.scot (the new version) is committed to working with others, the ones we know best being Common Space and Bella Caledonia. Mike, the editor of Bella, organised a meeting recently in Edinburgh and it was attended by several people from various sites and initiatives. The new media will work together where practical in future, we are sure. The issue is simply what works best for everyone.. following on from that is how it can be resourced, whether there are opportunities to share effort, and so on.

    Each site has its own followers and characteristics. Obviously there is crossover too. As Angela has pointed out above, there is also crossover between new media and “mainstream” media. Those lines will become increasingly blurred as the “mainstream” becomes more digital. Ultimately — whatever your politics — what Scotland needs is a vibrant, diverse, argumentative, competitive and successful media. There is a lot at stake, but that kind of media is the true mark of a confident and forward looking country. We believe that is a view everyone shares, and something worth striving towards.

  27. I am part of Independence Live (www.independencelive.net), the Citizen’s Broadcast Channel, which is an organisation that has an important place in the current Scottish “new media” scene, and has played its role very successfully since the period of the Referendum. The archive of our livestreamed videos are now kept in the National Library of Scotland as an important historical record of the period of the Referendum.

    I have written an extensive and rather provocative article on Independence Live blog to help me put in order several thoughts I had when I was reading about your ideas on the role of the alternative media in Scotland.

    My position might sound too hard-core to some but I hope it gives some food for thought… at least…

    We live in critical times – major changes are underway, while rapid developments have already brought certain transformations that were thought impossible in previous years. One example is the result of the Scottish Referendum. Yes, we didn’t get independence, but we got 45% Yes votes, which is a big success, and as Angela and Mike said above, the new media were a crucial factor that contributed to this outcome. Big changes are happening internationally also, see Greece, Spain etc. And this encourages me to have some wild thoughts about a radically different future, which I occasionally dare to share them with others…

    The “new media” in Scotland has something to do with the “new” post-referendum Scotland, and this particular “new” Scotland (and its radical future) has something to do with Scottish people’s empowerment. I dare say that I see a crucial difference between new media (as I understand them) and traditional media. The role of new media is to work with information news in ways which empower people, as opposed to traditional media which, in my opinion, have perfected the method of “chasing good stories” to turn information fragments to commodity.

    I think that the representatives of new media in Scotland should definitely join forces (yet without losing their individual differences). We [as I said earlier, Independence Live is part of the new media scene in Scotland] should complement each other to come up with a well developed new paradigm that allows information to function as a tool of empowerment for the people of Scotland. This process has already started but it is true that we need to do a lot more work on this, especially on the sustainability of the model, both financial and everything else. If this paradigm succeeds, we might become a completely different category of its own that is not comparable with the traditional media in any sense.

    I repeat that I am aware that my position is extreme but should add that it has seriously crossed my mind that your idea of the portal might have a place in this new paradigm…. so many thanks for the suggestion.

    • I don’t think your view is extreme at all. And well done on getting your work into the National Library of Scotland. Paul Kavanagh’s Gaelic Map is also there – replete with the old Newsnet Scotland logo.

      I recall watching the ‘march’ on Pacific Quay broadcast by yourselves as thousands streamed along the River Clyde to protest at the BBC’s referendum output. I also watched other events broadcast by your good selves.

      I think many people confuse our new online community with a new media. It isn’t a media yet, but it will be one day. It can never challenge the BBC, but what it can do is erode the BBC’s influence. The old Newsnet did this and I believe my book will assist in this. Whether my book receives any promotion from Bella, Common Space or Wings remains to be seen, but it is selling steadily nonetheless.

  28. Lets not overlook old media.
    The people that have the greatest need and least access to free media are 65+ and spend the majority of their time at home, reading a single newspaper, and watching a single channel (despite owning a digibox containing hundreds of channels!)

    Possibly a free newspaper delivered to the home might give this group an alternative.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here