Freedom: Finding the angles

Originally, it had to be the major papers I turned to for information - until I'd worked out how the alternative press worked and where I could find news people might not have heard, picking the nuggets of gold out of the nationals was easily my best bet for strong stories.

The work was fairly simple, certainly to begin with.

Nothing could really be used which had appeared as a page lead in the main sections of a mainstream national, particularly the Guardian was a massive no-no as it has the highest number of left-wingers already reading it, but everything else was fair game.

My favourite haunts became the (broadsheet) business sections, the nib columns and the supplements. Some of the best early front pages came from tiny throwaways in The Times business section, because the only people who read it and understand it tend to be industry leaders and sympathisers, thus making it probably the single most reliable source of market information around. They can't afford to lie about potential sources of economic strife, because they risk pushing the business community into the wrong moves in the class war. Once you ignore the ideology behind it, 'quality' business reporting is a goldmine.

Campaigns also became an early mainstay - our best work probably centering around some of the most comprehensive coverage of the pensions crisis to emerge on the left, but also through ongoing international work*. Consistency in covering stories like the Hatfield rail crash through to their conclusion certainly gave us an edge in some ways over the mainstream press with its goldfish memory and minute attention span.

For the first year this proved a reasonable way to work, requiring only two weeks out of every fortnight and only threatening to lose its even keel if we had a shortage of reviews and features. Again however, weaknesses showed through in engagement with the anarchist milieu which was our staple readership (there can be no illusions here that we can survive outside this group), original research pieces, and the bringing in of regular new writers.

Bear in mind that if I'm making myself out to be the major writer here, it only applies to the front three pages of the paper. From quite early on Jack Ray ran the internationals about once a month, while features were dominated by Iain Mackay's massive and ongoing opus on Iraq, and Tom Jenning's complex (sometimes difficult) analyses of popular culture filled review pages. Mark Barnsley, Svartfrosk and J's listings took even more of the workload off.

But if any one of them didn't write, the space had to be filled and on a few ocassions this seemed on the verge of impossible. There were maybe three or four issues which teetered with text only being sent for layout in the dying dregs of a Sunday or Monday (the deadline being Fridays). Without new writers being found, we would have huge problems in the future and the old problem of 'what if one of us fell under a bus' scared the pants off me.

This meant that despite the handicap of distance, recruitment was a necessity.

NB// Continued later

* This wasn't actually down to me a lot of the time, some of the best work was done by Sorry., though sadly he has discovered organising now and is largely lost to the world of fortnightly newspaper writing - the reasons for this will be gone into another time.

Posted By

Rob Ray
Oct 16 2006 11:45


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Rob Ray
Oct 16 2006 15:55

Quick addendum: According to J, our resident seen it all, done it all layout* person, the next paper – ie. the one I had very little to do with except a couple of odd jobs – is pretty much sorted and ready to go to the printers. I feel like a million dollars grin.


* and volunteer admin/listings/organising – almost no-one gets away with just one hat at Freedom