The AGM is a yearly opportunity for the members of the co-operative to meet with the directors and workers, and receive updates on business performance and direction. As shareholders, it’s also the time to exercise their right to vote for board directors and to see the previous year’s accounts.
2022 was a year of big change for us, where we lost and gained a number of board and team members, and refocussed our efforts on running the organisation as a collective – prioritising open communication and information sharing to allow us to work more efficiently and holistically. With this change of direction, we’ve removed barriers to participation and reviewed our editing process to make it more inclusive and useful to writers of all levels of experience.
We want to help people to be a part of The Meteor’s work, rather than perpetuating the exclusive culture of the mainstream media. We also revisited our core values and aims, and returned to the co-operative values and principles to ensure they are embedded in everything we do.
The Meteor was incorporated as a co-op in 2019 after it had already been going for about 18 months. At the time it was one of the UK’s first media co-ops, following shortly after The Bristol Cable and The Ferret. It set out with big ambitions, but it hasn’t been as successful as we had hoped in the 5 or so years since founding. We’ve identified a number of reasons for this, and we’re doing things differently now so that we can achieve those goals we set at the beginning.
Also, the pandemic has compounded our problems by keeping us apart, so we’ve had to find new ways of working collaboratively at a distance. There’s also all the other problems of the age, such as the cost-of-living crisis and cuts to public services that we all rely on. While we might write about these issues as things that are happening generally or to other people, they have affected us personally, and this has made our own work more difficult.
We began the session with a couple of quotations. First, a bit of Shakespeare:
This is meant to reflect that although we are a small organisation, we do cut through to the real stories and hold the powerful to account. We do a lot with a small team, but we’d like to make it a bit bigger (drop us a line on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to help out!).
And then we spoke about our mission statement:
One of our board members said this statement was really important to them, and it was one of the reasons that attracted them to getting involved with The Meteor, particularly amplifying marginalised voices.
We have wondered whether our mission statement is a bit too long, especially the “fair, honest and accurate” bit, because all journalism should by definition be fair, honest and accurate. But unfortunately, a lot of today’s journalism isn’t. So we have to emphasise that these are our values to show that we are a genuine alternative that does things better.
Like many meetings we went over the previous AGM’s minutes, and there were items that remained outstanding from the member feedback part of the 2021 meeting. Our readers and members have been telling us what they want, and we haven’t always delivered it. That is set to change – we’re committing ourselves to regular reviews with the board to ensure that we stay on track and do what we said we will.
There were also a lot of valuable comments about why our members like what we do, and what we could do better. It’s great to feel appreciated and to know we’re doing important work. And we have lots of ideas to follow up on based on that feedback.
Reflecting on the work of years past has also reminded us of all the hard work that has gone into producing The Meteor, from contributors past and present. All this effort has gone into creating a record of the less-reported aspects of life in Manchester, and we couldn’t have got this far without them. If you’ve written for us before, or been involved in some other way, thank you! And why not get back in contact? If you’ve been reading our articles and attending our events over the years, thank you as well. We need you, too, and we hope you’ll stick with us!
The board has recently chosen to adopt the policy governance model, which focuses on the ends – our core purpose – the organisation exists to fulfil. The board meets regularly to check progress and performance to determine if The Meteor is working in line with those ends. We’ve already done some work on this, but we will also be consulting with our members, so watch out for an update!
Next, we took a look back over the stories we’d produced over 2022 and the beginning of 2023. Here’s a selection of the work we highlighted at the AGM:
We’ve covered stories on housing & development, work & industrial action, communities coming together, the different Greater Manchester boroughs, radical gatherings, conferences & demonstrations and more. It was noted that although we only have a small team, we’ve produced good work. But we are looking to grow the team, and also our pool of writers. We’ve started offering more paid commissions, and we’ll be opening them up to more writers over the coming months.
We’re currently on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. We have thought about going on TikTok to try to reach a younger audience, but seeing as it’s getting banned by everyone, we can’t afford to devote sparse capacity to a dead end. We still need to increase our reach, though, and we need to find someone to help run our social media accounts.
The Meteor has been running for almost five years, but has stayed roughly the same size during that time. We could have had a far greater impact, and we have also been overtaken by other Manchester media outlets. It’s easy to feel pessimistic about the slow progress, but instead we’re choosing to take this opportunity to grow and to show ourselves as being different and interesting. We’re aiming to reach different audiences or even reach audiences in a different way. These will be fantastic conversations to have and that’s why we want to involve our members in those discussions.
We held some online training in 2022, and an in-person session on investigating the planning system. We also ran an in-person listening event, a number of members’ editorial meetings, and a festive gathering. The pandemic changed how we hold events, and it also resulted in fewer events taking place. Even as we bounce back from lockdown, the way that all of us interact with society has changed, and it’s been a struggle getting back into the old pattern of regular in-person events that we used to put on. But they’re a big part of what we do, and we want to bring them back. We can also support Meteor members to co-run events.
Speaking of the members, our numbers dropped from 153 in 2022 to 128 at the start of this year. A big reason for the drop is we don’t have anybody specifically looking after member engagement and recruitment. We have got some limited funds for someone to fulfil that role and we’re looking to recruit someone for this. Do you know anyone who could do this? Is that person you?
We also recognised that with the cost-of-living crisis, some people will be cutting back on non-essentials like subscriptions. We hate to see people leave, and we want to offer members alternative options to paying if they can’t afford it. Those whose voices need to be heard the most are often those with the least access to a platform, so we want to avoid excluding already marginalised groups, especially on one of the criteria that marginalises them in the first place.
We are also getting a new website, which will benefit members in two ways:
- An improved payment platform that streamlines the whole membership & donation process for us, and for you, the members.
- A members’ area where you can interact with The Meteor and other co-op members, and find hidden bonus content only available to subscribers.
The Meteor has previously received funding to produce content on topics chosen by a third party. Although these funders choose what topic or theme they want their cash to support, we retain full editorial control, and they do not tell us what to write.
Prior to 2022, The Meteor produced supported content on housing insecurity, the sale and use of public land, community-led housing, urban development, co-production during the pandemic, the housing crisis, and creating radical change. 2022 saw the last few articles from the Creating Radical Change series, and now we are looking for new partnerships in 2023 and beyond.
These connections help us to do our job, and they help our readers by assuring them the information we produce is high quality. This is especially the case for our membership of Impress, which requires us to operate transparently, have proper systems in place to deal with complaints & compliance, and to adhere to the Impress Code.
The Meteor Office
We’re no longer just a virtual presence; now we have a physical workspace too! It is hoped that having this base on the edge of the city centre will help us work more productively, and that it’ll provide an opportunity for readers to come and say hello! So far it’s been a great asset and it’s nice to have a real office. We’re starting a thing called Writer’s Wednesdays, where you can join us for a co-working session, or give us your ideas, in person or over Zoom. If you’re interested, get in touch via the usual channels and we’ll give you more details.
The all-important financial report – it’s what we (and the taxman) have been waiting for in order to hold the delayed AGM (ideally, we would have held it at the end of 2022). It turns out we’re in profit… which isn’t as good as it sounds, because it’s left us liable for a large tax bill. These funds should have been reinvested in the business in the 2021/22 tax year to avoid this, and to pay for more quality journalism – and then we could have spent that tax money on something better.
Our turnover in the last tax year was about £24,000, and we urgently need to improve on this value. It’s not enough to run a sustainable media business, and yet we know it can be done. There are dozens of small independent media outlets that are profiting and paying full-time staff. That’s where we need to be, and to help us, we’re getting business support from Flourish Together CIC to help us get there.
The Year Ahead
We finished the meeting with a summary of our plans for 2023. In addition to the new website and changing the way we work, there are three headline goals we’ll be working on this year:
- Increase our content output – this is our top priority, and feeds in to the other two items.
- Hold more conversations with members and old & new partners to develop interesting pieces of work.
- Grow The Meteor team & board – we need more people to help us achieve our vision.
Do you want to get involved and help us make 2023 an even better year? Get in touch and we can discuss next steps.
Join The Meteor Co-op
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If cost is a barrier, please get in contact with us anyway. We want to include as many Mancunians as we can on our journey, and there might be other ways you can contribute to our work. Send us a quick email to email@example.com.
Election of the board
We elected new board member Mark Carrigan, who leads a Masters programme in digital media and co-leads a digital research group at the University of Manchester. He has also worked for many years as a social media strategist.
The board now consists of:
- Naomi Davies
- Nick Prescott
- Alice Toomer-McAlpine
- Mark Carrigan
Next year’s AGM takes place on Monday 29 January 2024.
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All Images: The Meteor
Co-operative Values & Principles PDF: Seeds For Change