To mark the 150th anniversary of Co-op News, this special issue focuses specifically on co-operative journalism and co-operatives in the media. It celebrates co-operative journalism's contribution to the co-operative movement, points to the general invisibility of co-operatives in mainstream media, and considers media co-operatives as an avenue to respond to and recover an ailing news sector. As such we include this special issue (a supplement to No. 163) as an addition to our usual three journal output per year.
Constructing the co-operative imaginary: Journalism’s past, present, and emerging contributions
Mitch Diamantopoulos, Alex Bird, and Andrew Bibby, with Siôn Whellens and Rebecca Harvey, pp. 3-6.
Movement journalism and early co-operation: Entwined histories
Holyoake’s Ghost: Remembering press activism’s role in the invention, cultural empowerment, and social mobilisation of Britain’s co-operative movement, 1821-1871
Mitch Diamantopoulos, pp. 7-19.
This study spotlights alternative journalism’s contributions to the British co-operative movement’s take-off in the nineteenth century. It shows five waves of press activism that powered movement expansion: the Owenist agitations, the Brighton wave, the socialist turn (including the radical unstamped), the Rochdale moment, and the establishment of a movement-owned press. This historical sociology of co-operators’ press activism demonstrates that alternative media innovation was central to advancing literacy, intellectual and press freedoms, and the early British movement’s advance. Indeed, co-operative news-work — from street-hawking to the activist journalism of movement intellectuals such as Robert Owen, Dr. William King, Henry Hetherington, and George Jacob Holyoake — drove the democratic broadening-out and working class cultural empowerment upon which movement gains depended. From 1821’s The Economist to the 1871 launch of The Co-operative News (later Co-op News), the analysis thus shows that alternative media fostered co-operation’s emergent culture. The analysis concludes by assessing co-operative press history’s implications for contemporary co-operative theory and movement strategy. It reveals the continuing importance of media innovation — to develop alternative media, the emerging sector of news co-operatives, and an alternative public sphere in which the co-operative movement’s counter-hegemonic values flourish.
Speaking for co-operation: The rise of the co-operative press
Anthony Webster, pp. 20-27.
This article charts the emergence and growth of the co‑operative press, especially the Co-operative News, and will outline how it became just one part of a flourishing publishing empire, which, though diminished, still exists today.
Building the co-operative commonwealth in Sheffield: The Sheffield Co-operator and “co-opolitics”, 1922-1939
Christopher A. Olewicz, pp. 28-38.
The Sheffield Co-operator was published every month from May 1922 to July 1939 by the Sheffield Co-operative Party in the UK. With a guaranteed circulation of 30,000 copies, it reported on issues which were of interest to people in Sheffield and refuted the negative reporting from the mainstream press towards co-operatives at that time. The complete collection of 170 editions bound in four volumes was donated to Sheffield Libraries (Local Studies) by the Sheffield Co-operative Party. Largely the work of one man — Albert Ballard, the Secretary of the Sheffield Co-operative Party — the Sheffield Co-operator survives as a unique example of a locally produced co-operative newspaper. This article provides an overview of its mission, purpose, content, and influence.
Establishment media coverage: A story of neglect and bias
Hidden in plain sight: How UK national newspapers report on co-operatives
Anita Mangan, pp. 39-50.
How do UK national newspapers report on co-operatives? Is there media bias and are co-operatives neglected in mainstream journalism? This article analyses the general coverage of co-operatives across UK national newspapers in 2020 to understand how co-operatives are presented to the public. The research is based on two key questions: how often are co-operatives reported on in UK national newspapers; and what kinds of stories feature co-operatives? Results show that co-operatives remain virtually invisible in mainstream newsprint. Only 640 pieces are published with just 32 stories featuring co-operatives in any great depth. These can be categorised using four themes: high profile business; features; personality-driven journalism; and community activism. Based on these themes, the article makes three points about the UK national newspaper coverage: co-operation is never explained; co-operation is associated with ‘other’ people such as foreigners or the poor; and co-operation is politicised. The article concludes by arguing that because co-operatives continue to be a marginal presence in UK national newspapers, co-operative journalism and journalism about co-operatives is needed now more than ever.
Colluding to conceal the co-operative difference? A discourse analytical study of Finnish S Group’s nationwide price-drop campaign
Anu Puusa and Sanna Saastamoinen, pp. 51-62.
In 2015, consumer retailer S-ryhmä (S Group), the biggest co-operative group in Finland, launched a nationwide operation to cut the prices of hundreds of consumer products. The operation became national news with lengthy discussions on various forums. This article analyses those discussions via the lens of two significant Finnish newspapers. Using a discourse analytical approach, we argue that news discourses reflect dominant norms of private ownership; maximising profits as the primary purpose for businesses; and a presumptively competitive ethos for commercial life. In the S Group campaign, newspaper coverage largely reflected lack of knowledge or interest in co-operatives’ unique features. Consequently, we suggest newsroom reforms and journalism education that acknowledge the characteristics and purposes of different business forms would yield more meaningful representations of economic and social reality. School of journalism and in-service instruction in economic pluralism, including co-operative education, would thus advance journalism’s professional commitment to truth-seeking and robustly democratic self-governance. However, we note the active complicity of the co-operative federation in setting the news agenda, encouraging the framing of their actions as a simple price war. The extent to which co-operative communications strategies may de-emphasise their unique character and importance therefore needs to also be considered.
Co-operative news innovations: Comparing contemporary exemplars
Comparing media-based co-operatives: What is the appeal of co-operative organisations for independent journalists?
Anca Voinea, pp. 63-71.
This paper compares and contrasts three media-based co-operatives whilst exploring the model’s potential to empower journalists and readers. The research is based on an in-depth survey of three journalists from different co-operative publications. The three case studies featured are the New Internationalist in the UK, Alternativas Económicas in Spain, and Alternatives Économiques in France. Highlighting the context in which each of these co-operatives has emerged, the study examines the various advantages and disadvantages of the co-operative model in journalism. The research found that these media co-operatives share many common elements, which derive from their business model, including a tendency towards collaboration and reluctance to rely on advertising in order to maintain editorial independence. All three interviewees said the co-operative model provided their publications with a higher degree of editorial independence, when compared to private investor-owned business models. The findings suggest, however, that the model is not immune to the challenges affecting the media industry, such as the decline in print media or the Covid-19 pandemic. The interviewees identified other challenges, such as continuing to pay staff decent wages, securing funding, and reaching the required number of subscribers to be financially sustainable.
Co-operative journalism: A Greek case
Michael Fefes, pp. 72-81.
While there is a history of co-operative enterprise in Greece, this has been largely limited to “traditional” (agricultural) kinds of co-operatives. Until recently there was no co-operative activity in the field of media and more generally the press business. The economic crisis of 2010 created opportunities to develop new modes of entrepreneurial activity in the co-operative sector. In this context, and following the collapse of Eleftherotypia, a national daily newspaper, Efimerida ton Syntakton — the Journalists’ Newspaper — a leftist progressive paper, was established in Greece in 2012, saving the jobs of the co-operative’s members. Indirectly owned by its employees, the Journalists’ Newspaper is an important example of co-operative journalism in Greece. It has proved to be a successful experiment surviving within a turbulent environment. It claims to support quality journalism, is presently financially viable, and intends to continue as a co-operative. This article draws on secondary data which is further informed by structured and semi-structured interviews with a key member of the co-operative to describe their experience of the creation and development of the newspaper.
Co-operative conversions in the newspaper industry: Navigating between the reefs towards success
Étienne Fouquet, Myriam Michaud, Luc K. Audebrand and Claude-André Guillotte , pp. 82-91.
The rise of digital media and platforms is driving significant change in the newspaper industry. These changes are forcing local media to alter their offerings and, for many, to change their ownership structure. In this context, cases of transformation into a co-operative form are particularly interesting. This article presents the case of CN2i, a grouping of regional media in the province of Québec (Canada), that has adopted a co-operative form following the bankruptcy of the former private press group. This case is particularly interesting, because each local media is constituted as a multi-stakeholder co-operative, and they are all integrated into a second-level co-operative. We rely on publicly available information and interviews with key actors to explore the success and challenges of the new co-operatives. Such a radical and fast transformation is accompanied by tensions that we highlight in this article. Drawing from a paradox perspective, we deepen the analysis of tensions arising from this transformation. We use Smith & Lewis’s (2011) framework to describe paradoxes as they correspond to belonging, organising, performing, or learning categories.