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The Great Central Gazette: A co‑operative newspaper reporting ‘with’ the community

Case study

25th October 2023
Co-op development
Great Central Gazette founders
Emma Guy and Rhys Everquill, two of the founders of the Great Central Gazette

Discover how our Business Support for Co‑ops programme helped launch an alternative to mainstream news that’s giving local people a voice.

The Great Central Gazette is an independent, not‑for‑profit newspaper in Leicester, written by and for local people. It was set up by Rhys Everquill, Emma Guy and Megan Lupton as an antidote to legacy news outlets. 

“The mainstream press is owned by wealthy individuals who don’t help the community. They are profit driven. Journalists are pumping out content to get ad clicks and revenue, not reporting on local matters,” said Rhys.

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Journalism should represent everyone. People should be able to come together to tell their own stories with their own voices – and come together as a community to amplify the voices of disadvantaged people.
– Rhys Everquill, Great Central Gazette founder

With this in mind, Rhys, Emma and Megan began planning the creation of the Great Central Gazette in 2022. They ran a crowdfunder and registered as a co‑operative society – and in March 2023, the website was launched.

“We wanted to follow the same model as The Bristol Cable – putting news and journalism in the hands of the community, making sure people have a say in how we report on things. We report with the community, not on the community.”

A multi‑stakeholder co‑op, the Great Central Gazette currently has 47 members who are either readers or journalists.

“Anyone in the local community can become a reader member,” Rhys explained. “We involve people in the editorial process and reporting as well. We see the community as experts.

“For example, if a member has expertise in policing and we’re doing a story about the police, we go to them for their insights. This creates a body of readily available experts who are involved in the creation of stories.

“A lot of our members go on to write for us. We also have a voices section with opinion pieces by members of the community.”

A view of the city of Leicester
The Great Central Gazette is written by and for the people of Leicester

The Great Central Gazette specialises in long form investigative features. One prominent investigation was into Leicester City Football Club’s gambling ties following the suicide of a local man who’d got into gambling debt.

“We’re also pioneering local solutions journalism – stories that start with a solution,” said Rhys. “For example, in Canada, there’s a vouching system to enable people without ID to vote – by having someone vouch for them.

“We ran a piece about this and had a positive response. Some of our readers are against voter ID. This article presented an idea for solving the problem voter ID presents.”

To set up their pioneering newspaper, Rhys and his colleagues sought help from the Business Support for Co‑ops programme delivered by Co‑operatives UK in partnership with The Co‑operative Bank.

They were awarded mentorship and advice from Ian Wilson of the CASE co‑operative development agency.

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Ian advised us on how we could engage our members, what legal form we could adopt and how to deal with our legal and regulatory obligations. It was really useful to have that early on and the advice was invaluable.
– Rhys Everquill, the Great Central Gazette

“Thanks to Ian’s help, we decided to set up as a multi‑stakeholder co‑operative. We wanted a clear distinction between readers and journalists who are responsible for different parts of the co‑op.

“Readers should be able to hold us and our regulatory promises to account. They act as a check and balance against us publishing something we shouldn’t.”

The team met with Ian regularly and followed his plan, each week looking at a different area they needed to consider. “We went away and did some workshopping as a team from some of the ideas we’d learned,” said Rhys.

“Ian also referred us to another organisation who provided us with templates for budgeting etc., to help us get started financially. We’re grateful for all the support and advice he gave us.”

With the launch of a print version planned for 2024, the Great Central Gazette is going from strength to strength – and they’re making plans to make an impact in new, innovative ways.

“We’re exploring partnerships alliances, where we work with independent businesses, charities and public authorities that share our values, to bring about self-determined change,” Rhys explained.

“It involves having facilitated discussions about the topics they think need covering in Leicester – and investigating them further to come up with questions, explore possible solutions and create reports that we publish as articles on our website. We’re very excited to get started.”

Find out more

 The Great Central Gazette – Website | X | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube 

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