‘We’re holding people to account for their actions’The Observer, 24 January 2016 John Harris In 2011, Alec Saelens, Adam Cantwell and Alon Aviram were undergraduates at Sussex University. Involved in student politics but well aware of its limited horizons, they began discussing the state of the media, and what to do about it. “We were talking about a leftwing tabloid,” says Cantwell, “and then something more sophisticated than that … and then we were getting near the end of university, and it was like, ‘what are we going to do?’”
Aviram, now 25, moved to Bristol “looking for a city where I could have some sort of quality of life”, and his two friends followed suit. In between low-end jobs in catering – which, to keep themselves afloat, they still do – the three began the journey that would lead to the first issue of the Bristol Cable: a quarterly newspaper-cum-magazine and online outlet its inventors see as a forward-looking answer to the hollowed-out state of local and city media.
The sixth issue has just been published, and 20,000 free copies are being distributed from more than 600 points across Bristol. About 15 volunteers run the operation day-to-day, though the roll-call of contributors exceeds 60.
The main aim, says Cantwell – also 24 – is “to create commonly owned public-interest journalism, produced by a wide range of people.”
And in that context, what is perhaps most remarkable is the aspect of the Cable that its founders claim makes it unique, certainly in the UK: the 540 people – just to declare an interest, including me – who make up the membership of its co-operative, who jointly make big decisions and help keep the operation afloat through an average monthly donation of £2.50 each. There are plans to increase to 2,500 members within 18 months – which would go a long way towards making the title self-sustaining, and thereby secure its future.
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