Five hundred years ago, whilst Britain was tearing itself apart over an ideological and traumatic break from Europe, something remarkable was happening in Venice. Words in ink soaked into paper, the paper was folded in four and then disseminated across the city. For the first time in human history, the inhabitants of a city had access to contemporary news – those who could read, at least. The news-paper was born.
What seemed radical half a millennium ago is humdrum now. We receive countless pieces of print through our letterboxes, filling our recycling bins. Now, the radical change in how we receive news is through the internet. We’ve never had more access to information and yet, as we’re now increasingly aware, social media algorithms narrow the diversity of this information, giving us only the news we already want to hear, confirming our biases rather than expanding our minds. Equally as worrying, our adrenaline-hungry minds are drawn more to stories of tragedy. We complain that local news is all about crime and traffic accidents but it’s what we click on.
What if it could be different? Well, fortunately, in many towns, communities are taking news back to its roots. Gorgeously designed pages are filled with information that not only informs but lifts the spirit. Those with a flair for writing are contributing engaging pieces of citizen journalism. Communities are coming together through a shared resource – made by them, for them.
The pandemic, disastrous in so many ways, has had at least one positive. It has reminded us of the joy of connecting those with whom we share our town, our neighbourhoods, our streets. We’ve discovered the superheroes that live among us, unshowy, committed, selfless. We want to shine a light on these brilliant people, to celebrate the goodness inherent in all of us.
That’s why we – at Trowbridge Town Hall – have decided to see whether we can kick start a community newspaper in Trowbridge. We’ve enough resource for the first edition (thanks to funding from the Coop Foundation and support from the journalism department of Bath Spa University). We want this to be a celebration of Trowbridge, of the people who live here and the amazing things they do. We want it to shine a light on the range of activities that happen in our town, from the things you can do to things you can see.
And we want you to be a part of it, if you want. If you’ve a story to tell, or you know someone who deserves recognition, get in touch. If you want to write or share your insights, let us know.
This paper – if it works – is for everyone. And – again, if it works – it could be as revolutionary as the gazettes that were shared across the canals of Venice five centuries ago.