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Introducing the Great Central Gazette

After months of anticipation, Leicester-based newspaper the Great Central Gazette has officially launched its online platform.

An arial view of Leicester with many buildings and tower blocks in the foreground and the horizon in the background.
Leicester © Duncan Cuthbertson

The newspaper, which plans to move into print in the near future, is taking a different approach to traditional local journalism. We hope to focus on citizen-led multimedia and investigative journalism, funded by our readers.

Emma, Megan and I – the founding team – hope to create a co-operative model as seen in Bristol and Manchester. We’re excited to bring a new type of journalism to Leicester. “Journalism is one of the least trusted professions in the country,” Emma said. Megan added: “That’s exacerbated by the fact that five or six major companies dominate local newspapers.” They don’t tell relevant stories about the communities they serve, particularly those who are under-represented, marginalised and disadvantaged.

As a co-operative, everyone can become a part owner of the Gazette and have a say in how we run.

What the Gazette is doing differently

What the Gazette will do differently is offer a more in-depth approach to local news and issues, focusing on investigative journalism and the stories that often go untold.

The team and I believe that the traditional model of local newspapers is no longer sustainable, as journalists are often required to churn out excessive numbers of stories each day to reach arbitrary page view targets. We aim to do things differently, with a focus on quality journalism that isn’t reliant on online ads, clickbait headlines or sensationalism. The paper plans to rely on reader-funded investigative journalism to create genuine change in Leicester.

Anyone can now become a member from £2 per month, with the option to contribute more. There are three tiers: Friend, Pioneer and Patron. Each has different levels of benefits, but as with most co-ops, one member gets one vote.

We’ll provide quality reporting to everyone, including those who are struggling with the cost of living. Lower-income households will have access to our journalism through free memberships, paid for by those who contribute more than the average. For example, if someone becomes a member at £6 per month, we’ll give a 12-month membership to someone who couldn’t afford it otherwise. If you would like to take advantage of this offer, please email us.

People who become members will get the very best reporting from us, including exclusive investigations, features, interviews, culture, and more. By supporting the Gazette, readers will champion a new type of journalism that is committed to telling the stories that matter to the community.

Approximately half of all stories on the website are completely free to anyone, regardless of whether they’re a member. Our members pay to keep public interest journalism free in Leicester.

We also want to give a voice to those who are often ignored by legacy press, offering a platform for people to share their stories and experiences. The “voices” section is a new twist on the typical “opinion” columns you see in many national newspapers. But we won’t sell controversy. Our contributors will be people who want to see genuine change in the community and have great ideas on how to do it. Most importantly, they’re local.

The Gazette is following in the footsteps of the Leicester Citizen, a Substack-based newsletter I launched in 2021 as an experiment to gauge people’s interest in different types of news coverage in the city.

Our flagship newsletter, the Weekly Briefing, will round-up news stories from across the UK that are about Leicester and its people. It’s available to all members as part of their membership.

Accessibility is key

Accessibility is something the team takes incredibly seriously. We have invested in an accessibility tool – AccessAngel – which makes our articles easy to read and translatable in 100 languages, including Gujarati, Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, Polish and Arabic. If for whatever reason it’s easier to listen to our articles, you can do so in 40 languages.

...and so is transparency

The launch of the Gazette has been met with excitement from the community, with many people eager to see a new approach to local news. We’re overwhelmed by all the support we’ve seen – in November 2022 we raised £2,640 in a crowdfunding campaign.

As the only co-operative newspaper in Leicester, we have received generous support from Central Co-op with a £500 grant to cover general costs.

In February, we successfully bid to De Montfort University for £2,000. This will be spent on a solutions-focused environment campaign.

Building on this momentum, we secured an additional £1,000 grant from the Lush Charity Pot to run human rights and media literacy workshops in Leicester, which will take place later this year.

Most recently, the Scurrah Wainwright Charity has pledged a £2,000 grant to support the Gazette’s coverage of the upcoming local elections.

The Gazette has done away with the traditional advertising model that so many newspapers subscribe to. However, we’re keen to work with local sponsors to promote important issues to our readers. Our sponsorship tiers – Bronze, Silver and Gold – allow organisations to back independent journalism and be visible to our diverse audience.

Trust in local journalism

The launch of the Gazette comes at a time when trust in journalism is at an all-time low. By offering quality reporting that is not beholden to corporate interests, we hope to restore trust in local media and create a more informed and engaged community.

We’re regulated by Impress, the independent press regulator. We’re also a member of the Independent Media Association and the trade body for co-operatives, Co-operatives UK. These partnerships are an important part in restoring trust in local journalism and upholding our standards.

The Gazette is set to become an important part of the local media landscape, offering transparency, accountability and aiding democracy.

We hope you will continue to support us by joining the Gazette today.

Reporter: Rhys Everquill
Researcher: Megan Lupton
Editor(s): Rhys Everquill and Emma Guy

Volunteer your time and join the team.

We believe in the power of journalism to shape communities and hold truth to power

Not everyone can afford to pay for local journalism right now. That is why we keep most of our stories open for everyone to read. If this is you, please continue to read for free.

If you're able to, please consider becoming a member from just £2 per month.