The Meteor is an independent, community‑based media outlet that’s been providing news, features and commentary to the people of Manchester since 2016. In July 2019, it became a co‑op.
“We did this because we wanted to go to the next level – to make The Meteor bigger, better and more influential,” says director Conrad Bower. “And we already have. It was our story that started to build pressure to change council policy.”
Conrad explains: “We published a piece about the lack of affordable housing in Manchester city centre – and asked the council why they kept ‘viability assessments’ from property developers confidential, when other councils publish theirs.
“There’s a policy guideline expecting a 20% social housing quota from developers who build property in the city. But they can circumvent that if their viability assessment says the deal will not make enough money.”
The Meteor’s story was followed up by a piece in the Manchester Evening News, then The Guardian – after which, Manchester City Council began publishing viability assessments. “It’s created greater scrutiny in the way they deal with property development in the city,” says Conrad.
Whilst the journalists at the Meteor had a handle on council paperwork, they knew little about the paperwork involved in setting up a co‑op, so they called on The Hive for help.
Part of their Hive support package was to receive peer mentoring from members of another independent media co‑op, The Bristol Cable – who went to Manchester to deliver three half‑day workshops.
“Their help and advice was excellent,” Conrad says. “They took us through their route to becoming a co‑op and gave us advice on what to avoid, how to grow our membership and create member engagement.”
It was also a positive experience for Lucas Batt, Membership Co‑ordinator at The Bristol Cable.
The Hive’s support package for The Meteor included advice from a specialist co‑op development adviser. “It’s helped us understand the rules and regulations needed to become a co‑op. The help and advice the Hive provided was essential. Without it, we would have struggled to set up a co‑op,” says Conrad.
A community benefit society with six production members, The Meteor was incorporated to include community members, who are the users of its website and publications. The plan is to give them a greater say in the news stories the journalists cover.
“The stories in mainstream media are driven by the management of that organisation. We’ll be offering the opportunity for our members to vote on the investigations we carry out."
“I don’t think the angles traditional media take on stories are always that enlightening and so we’re offering something different.”