Credit: Image by Alex Parkyn-Smith 

Media co-operative The Bristol Cable has received a grant of £100,000 a year for two years from the Omidyar Network, to expand its approach to community-driven journalism and work towards developing a sustainable model with membership at its core.

The Cable's almost 1,900 members, who contribute an average of £2.50 a month, will be able to discuss and decide on how the funding should be used when the team presents their plans at its next Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 14 May.

In a post announcing the grant, the organisation said it is looking at hiring a community media coordinator, as well as developing an online platform that makes it easier for members to contribute their expertise and make decisions about the co-operative's processes.

Adam Cantwell-Corn, operations and media coordinator and co-founder of The Cable, told that having a dedicated person to facilitate and source community contributions, which is currently a general responsibility of the entire editorial team, will "ensure that we continue our commitment to making journalism more accessible for members of the community".

The community media coordinator role will focus on hosting discussion evenings with writers and journalists, organising workshops and training for the public and staff such as the Media Lab, as well as providing mentoring and acting as a liaison between the editorial team and members.

Members of The Cable can currently engage with the organisation in various ways, including a decision-making software called Loomio, newsletters, a monthly members' meeting and the AGM, so the online platform the team is hoping to build will bring everything under one umbrella, Cantwell-Corn explained.

The monthly meetings, which approximately 40 people attend in various parts of the city, give members a chance to talk through the different stories that have been published and ask questions.

Depending on the topic of the story, whether it's surveillance, immigration or pollution, the team reach out to different groups of people to enable those members with expertise or strong interest in a certain topic to attend and share their insights.

"Essentially, what we're trying to do is to emulate the really high-quality engagement we have in our monthly meetings, the AGM and in between, and make that work online.

"We'll be consulting widely with people in the journalism sector and beyond to see what other common needs and problems people are facing before we embark on developing anything. It's very much in the early stages, but eventually it will be open-source for use by other organisations as well."

The grant will also be used to expand the team, increase pay for contributors and staff, and expand the publication's ability to tell stories in various multimedia formats by investing in equipment and software editing programmes.

"The main task for us with this funding is to make it work as leverage and investment for the period after the grant is over. That means maximising our members and therefore our income, and finding the time and capacity to look at alternative streams of revenue too.

"We want to push forward with the idea of stakeholder and membership-driven media – it's the members that got us here and that's what's going to sustain us in the main run as well, so that is the main focus underpinning everything else we do," Cantwell-Corn said.

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