National Collective has already made original journalistic contributions to the Independence debate. NC Press aims to expand upon this by building a team of writers and researchers seeking your sources and stories for independent investigations. We want to provide a unique platform that both established and aspiring journalists can participate in. Our aspiration is that this platform will continue to exist and expand after independence as part of a renewed Scottish media.
How you can get involved
Digital platforms provide greater opportunities for people to work together, electronically, across the country. NC Press wants to utilise this opportunity in the lead up to Scotland’s referendum.
To help make this happen you can contribute in the following ways:
- If you have a source or a proposal for investigation get in touch. You can email NC Press in person or anonymously, if required, via [email protected]
- Get involved as a journalist or researcher. If you have experience in investigative journalism and would like to get involved, let us know by emailing [email protected] and filling in our resource pool.
- Help fund National Collective. As a group of volunteers, our projects over the next year will depend on public support. Visit our donations page to support our efforts or contact [email protected] for further information.
There are signs of a growing Scottish alternative media. Such digital success provides hope against a backdrop of multiple challenges facing the modern media.
For his 2008 investigation into the media industry, British journalist Nick Davies commissioned researchers at Cardiff University to survey more than 2,000 UK news stories. Their conclusions were stark; only 12% of material produced by the most respected media outlets was found to be the original work of reporters. The rest was unchecked, second hand information gleaned from wire agencies and press releases. The Cardiff researchers concluded that:
Taken together, these data portray a picture of journalism in which any meaningful independent journalistic activity by the press is the exception rather than the rule. Journalism has been replaced by ‘Churnalism’.”
This is the state of journalism in Britain and Scotland today. As news rooms struggle for resources and the concentration of media ownership by corporations concerned solely with maximising profit continues to increase, public interest journalism is struggling.
Of course, the problems we have with the UK mainstream media are the result of more than a lack of resources. The ‘news values’ of British media institutions are too often internalised by journalists, making them uncritical of the status quo and openly hostile towards ideas and movements deviating from it. “Unpopular ideas can be silenced… because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact… the British press is extremely centralised, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics” – So wrote George Orwell in 1944, and his comments are undoubtedly as relevant today as they were in wartime Britain.
The results can be seen strikingly in the coverage of the independence debate. The press and wider media routinely and uncritically echo the latest assertions dispatched by partisan sources, misreporting and misrepresenting Scotland in the process.
Meanwhile, the 2013 World Press Freedom index ranked the UK no.29 behind a host of small states. Unsurprisingly, the Nordic countries dominated the top 10, with Finland, the Netherlands and Norway occupying the top three places. The report’s authors described these countries as maintaining “an optimal environment for news reporters”.
Journalists face multiple pressures in what can be difficult working environments. Recently – in evidence to the Education and Culture Committee of the Scottish Parliament – Dr Eamonn O’Neil, a lecturer in investigative journalism at the University of Strathclyde said, “They (journalists) are often put in the work-place under the most extraordinary pressure, especially within tabloids, to do things they would not normally do… They are put under that pressure by bullying individuals who tell them ‘I can stop your career from advancing.’ ” In the same session of evidence, Pete Murray, from the National Union of Journalists, criticised a culture of bullying prevalent in some press rooms.
We believe Scotland can do better than this: for journalists and the public. The future lies with an alternative media and its civic supporters who can utilise digital platforms. This requires new models of production, ownership and consumption of content alongside new models of funding. Such models would investigate and report beyond the PR operations vying on behalf of state and business interests, the likes of which currently dominate the mainstream media. We can ask the exciting and challenging questions that would otherwise remain unasked, look outwards to consider Scotland’s place in Europe and the world, and construct a media that speaks truth to power.
We envisage an association of journalists, academics and consumers collaborating to provide a counterweight to these interests and to build something new. We want to foster a culture of fierce, independent journalism, not only because we have reached a crucial point in the constitutional debate, but because it is what all citizens deserve.
If this proposal or any other National Collective project interests you, then join our resource pool to get involved.