The story so far
Exeter Observer began publishing in April 2019. Its community-owned subscription-based business model sustains other successful public interest journalism publishers, notably The Bristol Cable and The Ferret in Scotland.
It was founded by Martin Redfern with Leigh Curtis and Peter Cleasby.
Martin Redfern is Exeter Observer’s editor and a director of its publisher Exeter Observer Limited. He writes many of our news stories and features, performs investigative research and maintains the website.
He is an accredited UK press card holder with professional memberships of the Chartered Institute of Journalists and the Society of Editors and holds a Journalism masters degree with distinction at Birkbeck, University of London. Our insurance underwriters rely on these credentials to provide comprehensive indemnity cover which protects our public interest publishing.
Martin has a background in campaigning, project management and multimedia design and development and has been actively engaged with policy and practice around climate change since the 1992 Rio Summit.
Leigh Curtis is Exeter Observer’s community and culture editor and membership co-ordinator and a director of its publisher Exeter Observer Limited.
She writes most of our community and culture stories and manages our growing membership. She leads on design and marketing and deals with financial and administrative management including member meetings.
Leigh has a background in print design and project and account management with leading London media and design agencies and holds a degree in Fine Art at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she has also managed exhibitions and events.
Peter Cleasby is an Exeter Observer contributing editor. After reading French and German at New College, Oxford, he entered the civil service where he worked largely in policy development and business management across several departments, ending up as a deputy director in DEFRA.
He was also a Treasury-accredited reviewer of high-risk programmes and projects.
On leaving the civil service he freelanced as a policy, management and governance consultant and became a trustee of several national and local charities. Peter is also involved with Exeter Green Party as a volunteer researcher.
“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want published; everything else is public relations.”
Often misattributed to George Orwell
In its first year of publishing Exeter Observer established the editorial track record and high standards required for membership of IMPRESS, ICNN and BBC Local News Partnerships. We also ran two community journalism training courses with supporting specialist topic workshops aimed at assembling a volunteer team. Then the pandemic put project development on hold.
The core team sustained the masthead, pursued investigative research and incorporated the community benefit society as a vehicle to take things forward when it became possible to do so. Our readership grew steadily and we rebuilt the website to improve the user experience, lower production overheads and enable greater flexibility to experiment with new formats and ideas.
In April 2021 we raised £50,000 of share investment to finance a two-year development strategy. We set up administration and financial management systems, became an employer, increased our publishing rate and launched our email newsletter, The Exeter Digest.
Twelve months later website traffic and subscriber numbers had both doubled, and in January this year we published our 300th story and passed 250,000 monthly page views.
We now employ two staff, Leigh and Martin, and have published work by sixteen volunteer contributors.
More about Exeter Observer
- Independent, investigative, in the public interest
- Journalism with community benefit at its heart
- The story so far
- Distribution & promotion
- Democracy doesn't work when people don't know
- Legacy local news
- Exeter media in perspective
- Local news that matters
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.