The Meteor incorporated as a co-operative back in July 2019, holding our launch event on the 4 July, our self-styled media “independence day”.
A lot has changed since then. Much of the solid foundations of our lives have been upturned and suspended by the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite this, our co-op and team of committed journalists, organisers and researchers have grown in number and experience.
Media is in crisis. The pandemic has only revealed and widened cracks within the industry which already existed. While local newsrooms have shrunk or closed for good, national media is increasingly condensing into the hands of a few large and unaccountable media conglomerates.
Our decision to incorporate as a co-op comes from a belief that journalism should be democratic and accountable to the communities it seeks to serve.
A roundup of our first AGM
So first off, we’d like to thank all our members who attended our first Annual General Meeting last month. Your support is what makes The Meteor possible.
Our AGM opened with a talk by veteran media activist Tom Barlow of The Media Fund. He spoke about the state of independent media, how indie outfits can crowdfund journalism, the growth of YouTube as a news source and influencer mapping as a method of boosting our content.
We then moved on to present our annual report, highlighting some of The Meteor’s achievements since we became a co-op, including our crowdfunding campaign which raised £4132. We have used this pay for the creation of our online membership system, a series of investigative features, journalism workshops free to our members and special printed editions.
Supported by money from our crowdfunding drive our members voted on the theme of this year’s investigative series. Raising the Roof on Housing was selected from a shortlist by the vote of our Community Members.
This series consisted of eight in-depth investigative features into the state of housing and development in Manchester. From profiling stories of elderly renters to uncovering the unscrupulous conduct of Manchester’s social landlords this series explored how the way we live, and the city we live in, is changing.
In January we were one of 20 media groups to be selected to receive funding from Nesta’s £2 million Future News Fund. We received a £25,000 grant to grow and develop our model of co-operative community-based reporting and investigative journalism.
Alongside funding a brilliant redesign of our website it also supported an expanded events program during which we hosted two panel events, six journalism skills workshops and six poetry open mic nights. During the six months of the fund’s duration, we more than doubled our co-operative’s membership.
Another highlight of the year was our coverage of Manchester City Council suspending the planning committee during the first lockdown. Our reporting prompted Greater Manchester Housing Action to deliver an open letter to the council demanding the committee’s reinstatement. The MEN and the Sunday Times also followed up on this story, increasing the pressure on the council to eventually allow full scrutiny of its planning decisions.
This summer we published a special printed edition ‘Co-operative Manchester’ to celebrate our first year as a co-op. This edition explored the past, present and future of co-ops in the city, highlighting the role co-operatives can play in building an ethical economy and stronger communities.
Our new Board of Directors
The Meteor is a Community Benefit Society, a distinct form of co-operative which exists for the benefit of the communities we serve, in our case by publishing news and other media.
We’re governed by a Board of Directors who are elected at the co-op’s AGM. The Meteor is a multi-stakeholder co-operative as it has two types of members, Production Members, who do most of the editorial and organisational work, and Community Members who are readers and supporters of The Meteor’s work.
At our first AGM, we elected our new Board of Directors. Our Board is made up of seven members, three of which represent the Production team and three who represent our Community Members. The board also includes an additional independent member.
We’d like to congratulate our new community member representatives: Claire Stocks, a media veteran and co-founder of Walk Ride GM; Bex Rae-Evans, founder of Tech For Good Live and social good design studio Reply; and Naomi Davies who works with the charitable foundation Nesta.
After the election of our board, we presented a report about the development of our community organising group.
Since January The Meteor has also been developing its community-orientated journalism through The Meteor Organising Group. The group was set up to utilise community organising techniques in our journalism. The group embarked on a listening campaign to develop relationships with allies and potential allies around the city. As part of the campaign we held listenings with over 20 different organisations from law centres to tenants’ unions, community radio stations, anti-racist and disability rights groups across Manchester.
After the report, we hosted a short workshop with attendees on developing stories from the themes raised by the campaign. The Meteor would like to run more of these member story collaborations in the future to inform our output.
Improving our membership offer
Alongside taking part in the AGM, our members gave us valuable feedback and suggestions to how we can improve our membership engagement.
We heard that members would like more opportunity to connect with each other and the Production Team. To address this we will be organising quarterly meetings for members to get updates on our work, ask questions, collaborate on the co-op’s development, discuss Manchester’s media and work on ideas for stories and investigations. We’re looking to get cracking on this and are planning to hold our first meeting in December.
We’re also launching a Facebook group for Meteor Community Members to act as a forum to discuss the future of media and journalism, Manchester and our work. Our Members will hear more about these soon.
The year ahead
The last year has not been a walk in the park and we have all got some more tough months ahead. The need has never been greater to build a media that is fit for purpose and to support local journalism that is inquisitive, organised and accountable.
We’d like to extend a heartfelt thanks to all our members who have supported The Meteor’s work over the last year. Your support and belief in this project are what makes it worthwhile. With your energy and support, we have no doubt we can build a better media to amplify the diverse voices of this city.
The Meteor Team
If you’re not a member yet, we urge you to join The Meteor and become part of the movement for an independent, democratic media in Manchester.
Our AGM this year was held online on Zoom. After the AGM had finished we ascertained that a small number of non-members had been present and had voted. To verify the validity of the votes and resolutions passed during our AGM we recalculated the outcome of the votes, subtracting the non-members present from the total number of people voting and discounting their votes. We are pleased to confirm that the reported outcome of all resolutions voted for in the AGM were not affected by the presence of non-members. We will be adopting systems to prevent this occurring again at our next AGM.
Feature image: The Meteor (assorted images from previous Meteor events,not our AGM)