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Accepted Paper:

Freedom to control … the story  
Sue Lewis (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

The North East of England is often presented in mainstream media as a left-behind place. I consider the origins, role and hoped-for outcomes of The Eclipse, a newspaper project that aims to counter externally-produced identities of "stuckedness" by (re)taking control and (re)writing the narrative.

Paper long abstract:

It's not hard to find evidence of the North East of England's construction as a "left behind" place: the image of Margaret Thatcher's "walk in the wilderness", symbolic of industrial decimation; newspaper articles puzzling over a Leave majority, despite possible post-Brexit departures of the Nissan factory and EU funding; "shocking" mainstream media images and stories of drunken "nights on the Toon"; filmic depictions of poor North East lives, as in I, Daniel Blake. 'People still think of us as a place with smoking chimneys, flat caps and whippets - a kind of 1970s sitcom,' says Newcastle Council Leader, Nick Forbes. 'We're not like that, we haven't been for nearly 40 years' (New Statesman, 23.02.2018).

The Eclipse attempts to change the story. An "alternative tabloid" produced by, for and with the people of the region, it is - importantly - still a physical object, distributed face-to-face. By engaging directly with local people as it's handed out in the region's communities, the group responsible makes "spaces for conversation, [to] understand common issues and be empowered to do something about those issues."

Drawing on ethnographic research (as part of the production team) and interviews with the newspaper's creators, I explore the project's origins, perceived role and hoped-for outcomes. Grassroots journalism is nothing new, but there is more to this project than filling a local news gap. It is, I argue, an attempt to counter externally-produced identities of "stuckedness" by taking control of the medium and (re)writing their own narrative.

Panel A09
'Left behind places': unequal social trajectories of progress
  Session 1 Wednesday 4 September, 2019, -