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 facilitates the spread 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 and mobility but we also cover arts and culture, economic policy, education and more.

We 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.

Meanwhile 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 defied local government guidelines by filling statutory council committees with Executive members while removing accountability and scrutiny mechanisms 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 those 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 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
Exeter the musical promo poster

Council announces plan to produce "Exeter the Musical" at city's Corn Exchange

Exeter City Council has announced a plan to produce a musical theatre extravaganza billed as "an ambitious celebration of a better life in the world's most world-class city" as part of its UNESCO City of Literature celebrations.

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.

Exeter Observer logo

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.

Exeter Observer logo

Free introductory community journalism courses start 11 January 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!

Exeter Observer blog
Exeter the musical promo poster

Council announces plan to produce "Exeter the Musical" at city's Corn Exchange

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

Exeter Observer logo

Free introductory community journalism courses start 11 January 2020

Recent stories
Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Comment  ⁄  Economy & enterprise

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Exeter City Council's Chief Executive uses statistics to show the city in a good light, but in doing so presents a picture which omits important information about the city's true position.

Empty retail units at The Depot Purpose Built Student Accommodation block on Cheeke Street in Exeter

News  ⁄  Planning & place

Developer plans to convert retail units in Exeter city centre block to additional student bedrooms

Conversion of five of eleven shop/leisure units at The Depot on Cheeke Street would add nineteen rooms to existing 715 bedrooms in monolithic PBSA.

Train at Okehampton Station in 2015

News  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Okehampton to Exeter "Dartmoor Line" passenger rail service reinstatement confirmed

£40 million Department for Transport "Restoring your Railway" funding to enable trains every two hours by end of this year, with plans to increase to hourly service during 2022. Stakeholders combine to get South West infrastructure needs onto Whitehall agenda.

Atmospheric rise in carbon dioxide from the industrial revolution to the present

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Atmospheric concentration of CO2 now 50% above pre-industrial levels

Met Office says 2021 will be first year on record in which symbolic threshold breached for more than a few days as UK prepares to host COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Maclaines Warehouses beside Exeter ship canal

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Maclaines Warehouses development tests Exeter Heritage Harbour status

Decisions taken behind closed doors in favour of commercial interests threaten maritime and waterway heritage vision for Exeter’s historic quay, canal and canal basin.

Exeter Guildhall needs repairs

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

£37.5 million council maintenance backlog caused by underinvestment to be part-funded by asset sales

Exeter City Council has allowed property assets to deteriorate while prioritising new schemes including the £44 million St Sidwell's Point leisure centre, forcing it to identify assets for sale to pay its outstanding repair bills.


Support Exeter Observer