West Dunbartonshire community magazine wins major European Journalism Grant

12 April 2019

The Clydesider Magazine, a quarterly newspaper for the Dunbartonshire community. Photograph: Jennifer Jones

A local newspaper is building community and reigniting people’s love for the printed word

The European Journalism Centre has awarded West Dunbartonshire social enterprise The Clydesider a significant grant to help them use journalism to combat social isolation.

The international not-for-profit group has provided over £43,000 in funding and expert support to the west coast organisation.

The quarterly Clydesider already has a 10,000 print run, is available in over 250 locations, and reaches over 25,000 people across Dunbartonshire.

The magazine was set up by local journalist Andrea Eleftheriades-Sherry in 2017, an industry veteran who had become disillusioned with sensationalism in the media.

The Clydesider team community development worker, Jenny Watson and editor, Andrea Eleftheriades-Sherry, at the Birmingham Impact Hub for the Engaged Journalism Accelerator programme. Photograph: Jennifer Jones

Speaking to the Sloth at the European Journalism Accelerator workshop in Birmingham, she said: “The ‘good new’ model was always something that was in the back of my mind. By the time I was finished working at the local paper, although it has an important role to play in a community, it was starting to become quite sensationalist.”

She added: “The stories were more focused on murders, and stabbings, and bringing the community down, and wasn’t getting to see a whole picture of what was going on in my area.”

The money has allowed Eleftheriades-Sherry, who is managing editor, to employ a community development worker, Jenny Watson, to grow the Clydesiders reach in both readers and volunteer contributors.

Amanda and Charle Eleftheriades-Sherry hosting a Clydesider Magazine community event. Photograph: The Clydesider

Watson said: “The next couple of months, we are going to be doing a lot of research, looking at ways to make the magazine sustainable.”

“We’ve had money from the Scottish Government to bring the community in to look at specific parts where they live.”

“Social isolation is huge in areas like this. Your neighbour who does not get out to talk to the other neighbours. Your neighbour who cannot do their shopping themselves. Your neighbour who is in a wheelchair and does not have a ramp to get out his house. These are socially isolated people.”

She added: “But also people who are low in esteem, low in confidence, that can get out and about, but don’t know how to access what is in their community. I think it is a big thing that we should be all looking at as journalists within the community.”

Ben Whitelaw, who is the Journalism and Engagement lead for the engaged journalism accelerator, said: “It’s not only the Clydesider magazine that we were drawn to. The training, community cafes and workshops that they run help to equip local volunteers to tell their own story about the area and what it means to them.

He added: “In some cases, they’re challenging the existing narrative played out by other media. That’s really important.”

Amanda Clark (left), Journalist for the Clydesider, taking part in one of the many development workshops that the magazine organises to connect the community to the newspaper. Source: The Clydesider

Angela Clark has been volunteering for The Clydesider for over a year. She had originally trained as a journalist over a decade ago but chose to not pursue it as a career. She is now one of the most active journalists working for the newspaper.

She said: “90% of those stories in the Clydesider wouldn’t be in the local press, because people just wouldn’t go to the press with them.”

“The minute you mention the Clydesider, the reaction you get is a smile – it is just completely different – and it is just such a different reception that you get from people and I love it.

She added: “Before when you said you were a journalist, you’d get standoffishness, like they didn’t trust you, they didn’t trust the angle you’d take.”

Whitelaw continues: “Amanda and the team clearly take great pride in West Dunbartonshire and know the challenges that locals in the area face every day.

“That’s very important because it means they are able to produce a magazine that feels authentic to people.”

He added: “And it shows in the way that the magazine disappears off the shelves so quickly after it’s printed.”

The Clydesider Print Run, waiting to be distributed by volunteers across the county. Source: The Clydesider

The Clydesider are the first Scottish outlet to have received such support from the EJC.

Previous recipients in UK include Bureau Local, a crowdsourcing platform that opens up data sets to local journalism outlets.

Bureau Local, part of the Centre of Investigative Journalism was nominated as one of NESTA/Observer’s 50 Radicals of 2018 and has received accolades for their reporting on homelessness death figures.

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