More attitude and love

salford-star-second-birthdayBad times ahead for people working in the Manchester media as the MEN Media Group is axing 150 jobs and closing all its regional offices. Journalists that remain are going to be based in a central Deansgate site rather than offices in Stockport, Salford, Rochdale et al. This means that there will be no independent media based in my home city of Salford – or ‘Media City UK’ as it’s officially known.

I’m not sure what effect this is going to have on local output but we’re not going to be missing much if papers do close. From the Star:

The less journalists there are in a newspaper office, the less time there is to scrutinise what those in power are doing with all the public money. And no-one at the meeting, called by the National Union of Journalists, was surprised when the union’s vice president, Peter Murray, quoted research that had been done on 2000 national articles – only 12% of them were original stories. The rest were re-hashes of press releases, news agency feeds and stuff nicked from other papers.

Regular readers of the MEN will be wearily familiar with its brand of pointless columnists, intellectual rubber-stamping of council and corporate initiatives and, as the Star says, PR masquerading as news.

Over in Salford we’ve got a council that’s just yanked £100,000 worth of advertising from the Salford Advertiser and plugged £175,000 into its now-monthly anodyne propaganda freesheet. There is a university where the Vice-Chancellor is paid more than Gordon Brown, has a Cheshire house maintained by the uni and, naturally, is trying to sack 150 staff. There have been regular demonstrations up and down the Crescent.

All this means that there is a need for an independent voice in Salford that can criticise the authorities and report on the dark side of regeneration. The Salford Star was set up to do exactly that. Initially it attracted funding from several regen bodies and streams: the authorities ‘liked the idea of a big glossy community magazine giving people a voice.’  When the Star appeared it was extremely well written and produced with interviews with Manchester names and loads of local coverage. It was popular and respected.

The problem was that the magazine also criticised and scrutinised the local council and property developers. Editor Steve Kingston said: ‘Producing a proper community magazine sometimes involves not just biting the hands that can financially feed you, but rapping their knuckles.’

You can guess the rest. The council cut off their funding and all further funding applications have been refused. The magazine has had trouble generating advertising revenue. Kingston suspects that: ‘A lot of people won’t come near us because they’ve possibly got a contract with the Council and they’re scared.’ The Star has been praised by the national media, it’s won shitloads of awards but has no support from the local authorities.

This is the problem. To quote Kingston again: ‘[I]f you want to make money, give the funders what they want to read. If not, you’ve got a fight on your hands.’

The upshot is that the Star can no longer afford to put out a print magazine and its latest issue is entirely online. It’s getting by on donations and merchandise sales. You can read it here. If you live in Manchester or Salford then ignoring the Star is just not an option.

And please, if you can afford to, make a donation.

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2 Responses to “More attitude and love”

  1. mole45 Says:

    Not all the council! as a lib dem on the council i have allways supported free press. But we are few and the few will never have any success without the support of the masses who support what is left of Labour

  2. Ben Says:

    How very sad. Freedom of speech is so very rarely free.

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