“She has made me feel the need to make my voice heard through journalism.”
Our latest blog on the importance of community collaboration for the future of local news.
We believe that our papers should act as a platform to amplify the voices, opinions and concerns of our community members. Working with existing community groups and charities to develop relationships of trust and channels of communication has been a core element of our work since we began and has been key to our success.
Recently our newspaper, Tottenham Community Press, was awarded funding by Tottenham Grammar School Foundation to continue a collaboration with a local youth communications charity, Exposure. This funding will allow us to print a series of pages featuring content generated by the young people they work with.
Based in north London, Exposure is a multi-award winning charitable youth communications enterprise. Established in 1996 as a voice for local youth, Exposure remains true to its core principles of enabling vulnerable and disadvantaged young people to thrive creatively — for the good of others, as well as themselves.
This is the second round of funding awarded to this collaboration, through which we have already been able to publish content from young people on the topics of youth loneliness and social isolation, mental health and wellbeing, autism, mate crime, crime generally, attitudes towards Tottenham and its reputation in the media, and local pride in Tottenham.
Funding for this collaboration first began in May 2018 but this is by no means the beginning of our relationship with Exposure.
Social Spider’s Managing Director, David Floyd, is in fact an alumnus of Exposure, having participated in the charity during his teenage years — leading him to become editor of their magazine from 2000–2003. Tottenham Community Press’s first Editor, Adjoa Wiredu, is also an Exposure alumna.
The legacy of this charity on the media landscape of Tottenham and beyond is clear, however the funding climate for groups such as Exposure is threatening their ability to continue this work with future generations.
Andy Koumi, Manager of Exposure, believes that collaboration is a key means of ensuring the continuation of their work, describing the partnership as a “sustainable alternative way of ensuring the voice of our young people reaches an audience, to educate and inform parents, politicians and the wider adult community, so that the issues young people face are more likely to be considered, taken seriously and acted upon.”
“We believe if young people’s work is published, in newsprint and read by adults, it’s more difficult to ignore than if it’s on the internet, on a youth website.”
Luchia Robinson, Editor of Tottenham Community Press, also stresses social impact of including the voices of young people in the paper, stating:
“The partnership between Tottenham Community Press and Exposure enables vital, cross-generational communication to take place.
The work produced covers a variety of topics and perspectives that reaches fellow young readers; but most notably, an audience of adults across Tottenham. This dialogue ensures that our adult readers are made aware of some of the prevalent issues young people in the borough are currently experiencing.
The dedicated Exposure pages often include poetry, comment, illustration and features - all content that is centred on the interests and concerns of the youth.”
The benefit of this collaboration is felt both ways. After interviewing Luchia for Exposure’s own site, Jaden Okyere reflected on the role of Tottenham Community Press:
“Tottenham Community Press is a really cool idea. It brings together all the news in the Tottenham community, making me feel more connected and caught up in the news of Tottenham. It is also pretty accessible which is nice. I feel very informed now after interviewing Luchia. I feel like I can conquer the journalism world with her advice. She has made me feel the need to make my voice heard through journalism.”
Facilitating contact between our journalists and participants at Exposure is also a great method for increasing awareness of the power of good journalism and informing young people of pathways into careers in journalism.
The collaboration has also shone a light on how ongoing negative representation of Tottenham in mainstream media has affected how Tottenham’s youth see their community and their prospects within it. During one workshop run by Exposure and TCP (page 6), we questioned the young people about how they felt their area was represented:
“Negative, we are all represented as gangster and crazy, dangerous bandits. This makes me feel pretty angry and it also makes me think negative things about the area I live in. I wish they showed the positive side more. Then maybe, just maybe I could feel better about where I am from.”
— Jaden Okyere
However, the workshop also demonstrated that there was still a lot of hope and ambition about how young people could mobilise themselves to change this perception:
“Young people, including myself can contribute to changing people’s negative views on Tottenham by continuing to do positive things and not disguise where they’ve come from — and shine a positive light on our area.”
— Hayaati Njuki
“As young people we need to do our best in whatever we love doing so we can make a difference — for example, we can now write for Tottenham Community Press, so we can positively imagine and create the future.”
— Shakira Dyer
It’s crucial that these kinds of partnerships and collaborations continue to be funded so that this kind of conversation can be continued and built upon.
At a time where local news is in severe decline and funding is harder and harder to come by, these collaborations are a low cost method for delivering substantial, socially beneficial outputs, impacting a multitude of different stakeholders. Additionally some of this funding can be used to cover a small percentage of organisations’ essential operational costs — which are becoming increasingly impossible to fundraise for or cover through traditional commercial activities.
This funding has been hard fought for, with many rejections along the way from other funders. We believe this kind of collaboration is key to the growth of a sustainable and accountable local news sector and to fostering civic pride, especially in areas struggling with high levels of social disadvantage. We implore funders to revise their views on the benefits of socially driven, engaged media, and support such bids in the future.