About Exeter Observer

Independent public interest community journalism for Exeter and beyond

Exeter Observer is owned and managed, researched and written, designed and developed, promoted and distributed by people like you who share a mission to strengthen civil society and help people participate more effectively in local democracy.

Exeter Observer is editorially and financially independent, which means we can produce and publish our content without political or commercial bias.

We’ll never publish advertorial, clickbait or party political broadcasts and we don’t have a profit-driven commercial agenda or a business model that invades your privacy or faciliatates the dissemination of fake news.

Instead we aim to deliver in-depth articles and investigative journalism with real relevance and impact while informing and empowering the communities we serve.

This means we’ll keep people who live or work in Exeter informed of what’s being done in their name, by whom, with the community assets they own and the taxes they pay.

We’ll seek to increase public understanding of complex local issues and decision-making processes, make pertinent information more widely accessible and stimulate more inclusive and better-informed debate.

Many of our stories are focussed on local democracy, climate change, spatial development and transport policy but we also cover arts and culture, economic policy and education.

We also aim to amplify local voices, support community dialogue and inspire action for change.

“We need institutions that have the ability, both financially and culturally, to bring news that other institutions and individuals cannot.”

Carl Bernstein, Watergate reporter

Exeter Observer observes industry best-practice principles and is fully accountable:

Exeter Observer serves the governed, not the governors. We seek to inform, educate and empower the former while holding the latter to account by challenging their decisions in the public sphere.

Democracy, trust & the media

In the decade since the banking crisis standards in public life have declined while rising income and wealth inequality, confusion over the role of the public sector, fake news and digital media echo chamber effects have helped populists win influence and power.

A democratic deficit has grown while trust in our institutions and civic engagement, particularly among young people, has reached an historic low.

Our political system is proving unfit for purpose just as we most need it to respond to a new class of “super wicked” problems.

These not only require many people to change their views and behaviour, but demand urgent resolution despite there being no central authority to deal with them. The decisions of those in leadership positions are often also their cause.

Liveable Exeter?

Exeter must confront a cluster of such cross-sector, multi-stakeholder problems covering housing and education, health and social care, transport and mobility and economic and social justice.

At the same time the city is declaiming itself as a “global leader in addressing the social, economic and environmental challenges of climate change and urbanisation” despite the many ways in which it is anything but.

If reality is to match rhetoric, profound change must take place.

However Exeter City Council will shortly become what the Electoral Reform Society calls a “one party council”, having been overwhelmingly controlled by the same political party since 2012.

Devon County Council has been in this state, under the same leader, since 2009.

Academic research has shown that this “weak electoral accountability” greatly increases the likelihood of corruption, cronyism and spending decisions which offer poor value for public money.

The city has outsourced its governance to unelected boards which meet in secret and filled statutory council committees with Executive members despite local government guidelines, while accountability and scrutiny mechanisms have been removed from the council constitution.

Major problems remain essentially unaddressed while those in leadership roles disregard available solutions, present counterproductive outcomes as positive change and ignore the wishes of residents in decisions which will adversely affect the city for decades to come.

“A newspaper is much more than a business. It has a moral as well as a material existence.”

C.P. Scott, Manchester Guardian editor 1872-1929

Democratic literacy

Attempts to address such problems are hampered by the way public policy is determined and delivered across overlapping jurisdictions by multiple authorities with often conflicting political perspectives and strategic interests.

Other powerful yet unaccountable organisations and actors also significantly influence decision-making which affects us all.

Active participation in civil society is an important remedy for these ills. It critically depends on people understanding complex processes while also being sufficiently well-informed about what is taking place to engage with local democracy and intervene in the interests of their family, friends and communities.

From parliament to parish council the democratic literacy on which this participation depends relies on ready access to accurate, relevant, timely information about who is deciding what on whose behalf and how the bill for these decisions will be paid.

Local public interest news

Good quality local public interest news can answer this need while empowering communities, representing their interests and reflecting their cultural life.

It can hold wealth, power and the influence of individuals and institutions to account by scrutinising, investigating and reporting on the activities of government, business and charities and those that lead them.

However, changes in the structure, role and reach of legacy local media channels whose editorial independence is at risk from advertisers, owners and shareholders have left it ill-equipped to play this role.

Exeter Observer is part of an agile, innovative local news sector that has emerged in response to these challenges which avoids the pitfalls of traditional local media business models to deliver independent community journalism that has public interest at its heart.


Exeter Observer is published by Exeter Observer Limited, Community Benefit Society No. 8435 registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014.

Our registered address is St Sidwell’s Community Centre, Sidwell Street, Exeter EX4 6NN.

Exeter Observer blog

An open letter to all members of the Exeter Observer team

The situation is changing quickly. The electoral commission have proposed the cancellation of the May local elections, several universities are moving to online-only teaching and it seems likely that there will be a wave of event cancellation announcements early next week.

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Free two day news writing seminar on 14 & 21 March

Want to help hold wealth, power and influence to account in Exeter & East Devon? Get involved in a new independent public interest community journalism project!

Exeter Observer logo

Next community journalism course begins 22 February 2020

Want to help hold wealth, power and influence to account in Exeter & East Devon? Get involved in a new independent public interest community journalism project!

Independent Community News Network logo

Exeter Observer joins Independent Community News Network

Exeter Observer's application to join the ICNN has been successful, connecting us to a network of more than a hundred similar projects across the UK.

BBC Local News Partnerships logo

Exeter Observer joins BBC Local News Partnerships

Exeter Observer's application to join the BBC Local News Partnerships has been successful, granting access to the BBC News Hub and Shared Data Unit and the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

IMPRESS logo

Exeter Observer agrees regulatory framework with IMPRESS

Exeter Observer is now regulated by IMPRESS, the only Leveson-compliant PRP-recognised independent UK press monitor.

Exeter Observer blog

An open letter to all members of the Exeter Observer team

Exeter Observer logo

Free two day news writing seminar on 14 & 21 March

Exeter Observer logo

Next community journalism course begins 22 February 2020

Independent Community News Network logo

Exeter Observer joins Independent Community News Network

BBC Local News Partnerships logo

Exeter Observer joins BBC Local News Partnerships

IMPRESS logo

Exeter Observer agrees regulatory framework with IMPRESS

Recent stories
Exeter City Council offices on Paris Street

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Council pushes back on Liveable Exeter Place Board scrutiny following membership change

Exeter City Council has responded to an enquiry about disproportionate Church of England representation on the Liveable Exeter Place Board by accusing Exeter Observer of promoting a "partisan narrative" and claiming our public interest reporting "bears no resemblance to fact".

Devon County Council local authority pension fund fossil fuel investment bar chart

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Report places Devon County Council among UK's top local authority fossil fuel investors

£157 million of Devon Local Government Pension Scheme is invested in companies including Royal Dutch Shell, BP, BHP, Anglo American and ExxonMobil despite local authority climate emergency declarations and carbon reduction commitments.

Exeter polling station

News  ⁄  Democracy & governance

May local elections to go ahead despite COVID-19 challenges

Ban on doorstep canvassing and door to door leaflet distribution likely to favour the two major parties on 6 May as postal and proxy voting encouraged in Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and Devon & Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

Illustration showing how the new building will look when completed

News  ⁄  Economy & enterprise

Exeter Science Park STEMM "grow-out building" construction begins

A new specialist centre for fast-growth Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths & Medicine businesses will be completed by November 2021.

Exeter energy recovery facility

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

District heating network planned for new South West Exeter development

Local councils are investing up to £7.3 million in a £23 million project to supply a development of 2500 homes with heat from Marsh Barton waste incinerator.

Climate change mitigation challenges infographic

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

University research consortium launches "Accelerate to Net Zero" project

The GW4 Alliance of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter universities has launched a collaborative project aimed at accelerating decarbonisation across South West England and Wales.


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