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.
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:
- as a Community Benefit Society we must pass a community benefit test and submit an annual report to the Financial Conduct Authority
- as an IMPRESS member we adhere to a Standards Code and have a robust complaints procedure with access to an independent arbitration service
- as an ICNN member we maintain our editorial independence and high professional standards via adherence to the NUJ Code of Conduct.
- as a member of the BBC Local News Partnerships we meet strict eligibility criteria and maintain standards including adherence to the Editors’ Code of Practice.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.