What’s the kind of stories that help foster a sense of community and belonging in our neighbourhoods? Last week I met up with some of the volunteers for the Evington Echo, and we discussed how stores can be written that engage with people who live in the Evington area of East Leicester.
The Evington Echo has been continuously published since the 1980s, and has pprovided local residents with news and information that wouldn’t otherwise get covered in the mainstream media, unless there is a massive controversy.
I’ve been working with Helen Pettman, the editor of the Echo to redevelop the website, and to help iron out some of the editorial policy issues that a voluntary run news paper faces. Helen has now registered with IMPRESS, and has changed the editorial process that allows volunteers to make direct contributions to the paper.
The Evington Echo prints and distributes over five thousand copies every two months, which is a massive undertaking, not only to find stories, but for volunteers who are happy to push copies though people’s letter boxes.
We met on Wednesday evening as a small group of volunteers in the local community cafe, and we chatted about what makes something interesting and newsworthy for the Echo? We agreed that this is different from other news approaches, because not everyone has the skills to be a journalist, while they might have an interest in recording and noting what is going on in the local area.
What really got the conversation going was the hot topic of parking controls that the local council are bringing in, and the move towards low-traffic neighbourhoods. This was a topic that everyone had an opinion about, and the conversation took off. when I asked whose voices are not being represented in this discussion, however, there was a sudden stop.
I’d mentioned that children never seem to be heard in these debates, and that perhaps the Echo could run some articles and features based on what children are experiencing with the domination of car culture.
An important distinction about community reporting is that it works best when the focus is on people’s experiences rathe than their opinions. Simple experiences, such as walking through the village and seeing the spring flowers, can be a valuable story that local people value, because it helps foster a sense of belonging.
My advice was to take lots of photos and use them as the starting point for a conversation or a story. We each see the world differently, and even the most casually taken photograph can show something that we might have missed in our own travels.
The next event I’m attending is the Jubilee celebrations, where I’m going to capture some stories from the fate and make a podcast for the Leicester Stories website, which can also be tuned into an article for the Echo.
Often we forget that our media can be a useful tool for community building and fostering a sense of belonging, and after forty years, there is a lot to be leant from the Evington Echo.