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It’s time to transform our media climate

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  • Picture of Simon Francis
    Simon Francis
    Campaigns consultant & Editor of The Rooftop
  • Fellowship

These are challenging times for campaigners and communities creating positive change. The mainstream media climate is dominated by Brexit, negativity and political posturing, while newer online media outlets tend towards bias and hyperbole. This leaves no space for positive news.

True, there are a few notable exceptions in the media, but campaigners celebrating success have a tendency to talk to people similar to themselves.

Therefore, perhaps it was unsurprising that one of the biggest issues identified in our social enterprise’s research into how we can best help campaigners was the lack of media interest in positive stories about our communities, such as the amazing work of charities, social enterprises and other campaigners.

But the problem runs deeper.

New research has shown that just a fifth of the population have heard positive news about charities (22%), universities or colleges (18%) and local councils (17%) in the last three months.

The picture for social enterprises (13%) and trade unions (10%) is even worse. In all, 54% have not heard any positive news about these organisations.

This is a problem for three main reasons (first set out in this post for LGIU Scotland). It is bad for the reputation of these organisations, it is bad for democracy and it is bad for the public’s mental health.

To address the problem, three months ago our social enterprise, Campaign Collective, took the bold step of launching our own positive news outlet.

The Rooftop is a new media outlet and social media presence designed to provide the public with a daily dose of positive news.

In its first three months, The Rooftop has seen over 1.3m content views of stories about the positive impact of social enterprises, great charity campaigns, exciting developments from local governmenttrade union victories in the workplace and ground-breaking research by universities.

The website and social are designed to help charities and campaigners connect with the general public and get their positive stories heard in what is often a negative mainstream media climate.

For example, we helped Ben West get a petition calling for better suicide prevention training for teachers in front of ministers and the public and our coverage helped propel a firefighters’ charity Christmas single towards the top of the charts!

We’ve also covered stories ignored elsewhere, which will help foster a better society – such as the excellent Human Lending Library launch and stories featuring social enterprises tackling period poverty.

For a brand new media outlet, we’ve made a good start. Our initial tracking research suggests that up to 5% of the UK population have heard from us in the first few months.

But we need to do more. The scale of the problem is vast and we have limited resources. And that’s where Fellows of the RSA can come in!

Of course, if you’re so minded you can support our quest to bring more good news to the masses financially.

But the easiest way to support is to spread the word. It’s free, easy and takes seconds – just join the Facebook page and share our inspiring stories.

Just as importantly, you can send us news for organisations you’re in touch with, simply email editor@therooftop.news or post your positive news into our News From The Rooftop group.

One news site alone isn’t going to address all the problems in our media climate, but it’s a start and it’s an easy way for you to help as well.

Simon Francis FRSA, is Founder Member of Campaign Collective and Editor of The Rooftop.

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  • Hi Simon, great article and I love what you are doing - I've just liked your Facebook page, and asked to join the group.

    Three areas that might be of interest to you and your readers:

    1. The new Social Founder Network I have recently set up - www.socialfounder.org

    2. Together TV - a UK broadcast TV channel, always looking for inspirational social action content for broadcast, but also for our Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/TogetherTV and twitter @togetherukTV

    3. My Churchill Fellowship research - I am researching new forms of ownership and fundraising for social impact media - in the USA and India mainly, later in the year, but also interested in all community/social action media stories - would be great to include The Rooftop, and any other organisations that you and other RSA fellows want to highlight. 

    Looking forward to following your story, all the very best,

    Caroline Diehl, Exec.Chair, Together TV, and Founder, Social Founder Network

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