The Hastings Independent Press (HIP) is a free, not-for-profit, fortnightly newspaper run mainly by volunteers – and they’ve just published their 50th issue. Having run for two years on a shoestring, they’re now raising the bar – to the tune of £15,000. This would finance a professional office space and a distribution service, allowing the paper to build on its success.
About the Hastings Independent
For two years, HIP’s team of volunteers have worked tirelessly to provide quality news, back local causes, support community cohesion, promote local arts, and provide training and work experience to local people.
This kind of positive, community-focused organisation is vital to the town, which suffers low average incomes, high unemployment, and more than its fair share of substance abuse and mental health problems. According to the Department for Communities and Local Government, Hastings is the most deprived town on the south coast, and the 13th most deprived local authority in England.
“It’s a community paper, for and of the community,” says reader Jane Grimshaw, who has also appeared in the paper for her work with Hastings Supports Refugees. “It’s lead and inspired by members of the community with an inclusive approach to reporting what is happening in our area.”
Providing training to the community
Very few of HIP’s volunteers have formal training in journalism, so the team run free weekly peer-to-peer sessions on Monday evenings at a local careers centre. Recent sessions have included news writing (run by the news ed, an ex sub-editor), law for journalists (run by the sports ed, a retired solicitor), photojournalism (run by the picture ed, a professional photographer) and media sales (run by the advertising manager). Volunteers also make use of free training resources, such as the online course in community journalism by Cardiff University.
“I came to HIP to learn new skills, become more confident in my writing and gain new experiences,” says volunteer Leanne Cannon, who is also studying English with the Open University. “Working with HIP I feel that I can reach those goals.”
With recent news that the University of Brighton will be withdrawing its Hastings campus in five years (along with its journalism course), HIP has become even more vital as a training resource.
HIP is primarily paper-first, feeling that a free, paper-based news source is important to the community. But it has also recently refurbished its website, to broaden its reach and allow volunteers to link to their stories when applying for jobs. Here are a few recent articles:
- Students and locals protest against Brighton University’s decision to close its Hastings campus
- Suggs from Madness lays the last plank on the restored pier
- Victorian hot baths converted into a state-of-the-art skate park
- Survey finds 64% of Hastonians keen to remain in UK
Achievements to date:
- Pagination has increased from an initial 16 pages to a current 24.
- Regular volunteers have grown from an initial 4 to a team of 37, including 12 section editors, 4 sub editors, 4 photographers and over 20 writers.
- We also have more than 100 occasional contributors.
- Advertising covers most running costs, with preferential rates for small local businesses and community organisations.
What past volunteers are doing now
Several volunteers have used their experience with HIP to gain new employment. A few examples are: gallery assistant at Express Newspapers, social data journalist at Brandwatch, freelance writer for Novara and the Guardian, communications manager for the local borough council.
Having confirmed the local appetite for an independent news source over the past two years – and the HIP team’s ability to provide it – they are celebrating their 50th issue by launching a crowdfunding campaign to raise £15,000.
This will allow the paper to build on its success to date, by financing for one year:
- A distribution co-ordinator to do newspaper deliveries.
- Improvements to the office, which was kindly donated but needs some work.
- Occasional shortfalls in running costs such as printing and design (usually financed by advertising).
Any help with raising the profile of the crowdfunder, or the paper in general, would be much appreciated.