Local news outlet The Bristol Cable has been successfully running since October 2014, having so far published 110,000 print copies of its quarterly newspaper.

The local media co-operative encourages the community in Bristol to get involved in the publication by holding free training workshops and events, as well as welcoming story suggestions from the public.

While their attempts to 'redefine local media as we know it' are proving successful with readers and the company has grown since the launch, this has also brought three main challenges for The Bristol Cable co-operative.

Alec Saelens, one of the founders of the publication, explained what these challenges are and how his team is preparing to address these issues going forward.

There is no set political stance

Along with features, local voices and international issues, reporters at the publication have also been covering long-form stories of an investigative nature.

As a result, the research and datasets compiled by the publication are frequently used by campaigners to hold decision-makers accountable. The Bristol Cable itself does not have a political stance, but the outlet is now questioning whether it should stand for a set of opinions.

"We had recommendations in the midst of Brexit and the previous refugee crisis to take a stance as a publication," said Saelens, speaking at the CIJ Summer Conference in London yesterday (14 July).

"It is something we haven't really made a resolution on. Points of view within the organisation are divergent, so it's about whether we should remain a reporting outfit, covering stories that relate to migration and refugee issues, but without a politicised approach."

The editorial team has also had to consider the organisation's diverse membership base, Saelens added, which is actively encouraged to contribute ideas as to what kind of stories they would like to see covered.

Logistical demands of memberships are increasing

Membership figures at The Bristol Cable have tripled in the last year, jumping from 400 participants in July 2015 to almost 1,200 paying members in just 12 months.

As a result, the team must ensure they have the infrastructure that allows all their members to be engaged and involved in the "most democratic fashion". This will be done through workshops and events that will give people a sense of ownership over the publication, Saelens explained.

Additionally, The Bristol Cable has expanded its staff to create a team of 12 people to cover all the groundwork, from finance and accounting, to organising the events and managing memberships.

A self-sustainable business model must be attained

The team of coordinators, in charge of the various activities of the Cable, have started getting paid for their work. The Cable hopes to pay all contributors in the future.

The news outlet makes £3,000 per month from monthly contributions, the minimum being £1 per member. On a quarterly basis, another £3,000 is generated from print advertising.

With the increase in memberships, The Bristol Cable has expanded its print run to 30,000 for its most recent edition, increasing from the 20,000 copies of the two editions prior, and aims to distribute the paper to over 600 locations in the city.

But in order to succeed with a higher print run, the outlet must continue to produce high-quality journalism on multimedia platforms, Saelens said.

"We have to keep it up and make sure we bring in more contributors, and develop the skills of the various co-ordinators and contributors in order to sustain the quality in the future.

"That is something that is going really well, and our program of workshops is designed towards that."

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