Today is the second anniversary of the launch of East Anglia Bylines, the seventh of the ten regional citizen journalism sites across the UK that make up the Bylines Network. To mark the occasion, we thought we would give our readers a brief overview of who we are, and what we have done in the two years.
We came about because of growing concern at the decline of local newspapers, radio and TV, and the increasing domination of the news media by strongly right-wing interests. So we take a broadly progressive approach to stories, with a special focus on issues with an East Anglian dimension, and always watching for issues which no one else has covered.
Who are we?
We are a small editorial team of eight volunteers, led by our Editor in Chief, Anna Damski. Between us we write, commission, edit and publish stories across a wide range of topics. We are supported by 180 other volunteer writers, some of whom have only written a single article, while others write much more often. Others provide cartoons or photographs. We also have a small (“Spotlight”) team of investigators who gather evidence to support stories written by themselves and others.
As part of the Bylines Network, we are a sister organisation to Byline Times. Although both organisations fully support each other and collaborate where possible, the companies are separate entities – legally, financially and editorially.
What have we published?
Since launch we have published over 1,060 articles, usually one or two a day. On most days our site is visited around 1,000 times, giving us a total of 870,000 views since launch. Because the peak time for viewings is early morning, we aim to publish the day’s lead story at around 5.00, and often add a less prominent story in mid-afternoon. Occasionally something exceptional will happen, and we will slot in additional stories at other times.
Occasionally an article attracts a lot of attention on social media: eight stories have been viewed more than 10,000 times, usually because they have touched a nerve on social media, where people have shared and retweeted links. More typically, stories are viewed between 300 and 1,000 times.
East Anglia Bylines is not attached to any political party, but, like all the Bylines sites, we grew out of progressive politics, and some of us were active in the Brexit Remain movement. So, it’s not surprising that the majority of our stories are political, in the broad sense, and our biggest readership has been for stories with a European dimension, which form about a fifth of all our output.
However, we cover a much broader range, including environment, economics, health, science, cultural, and historical issues. We reported on the pollution of our rivers and coast by sewage discharges well before the national or regional press picked up the issue. We also had a national exclusive when we reported on the storage of unusable PPE on farms round Suffolk during the Covid pandemic.
Do we have special interests?
Where an issue is larger or more complex we sometimes create a series of articles around a particular theme. These have included Rivers of East Anglia, and East Anglia in Poetry, for National Poetry Week. Most recently we have launched a very popular series of perspectives on Brexit from other European countries, with some very distinguished authors.
We have published a small number of exclusive stories. Some are local, like a Town Mayor in a nightclub fight, and an unexpected mass protest over low emission zones in Thetford. Others have national implications, like Matt Hancock’s involvement in PPE contracts, and breaches of election law in the region.
We publish a monthly email newsletter, with the best of the month’s stories, and this has nearly 800 subscribers. We also contribute two articles, alongside the other regions, to the Bylines Gazette, the monthly newsletter published by the national Bylines Network for paying subscribers.
Where can you find us on social media?
We are active on the main social media platforms. Our Twitter account has 10,400 followers, and it’s not unusual for tweets to be seen by four or five times that number of people. Our Facebook account has 5,500 followers. We also have accounts on Mastodon and Threads.
Do you have a story to tell?
We are always on the look-out for new volunteers. If you would like to write for us, about anything of interest to people in the region, do get in touch. It may be that you have particular expertise or knowledge of a topic, or just an interest in digging out interesting stuff. If you are interested, but nervous about your writing ability, our editors will work with you to get it ready for publication.
We are also always looking out for local news and issues. In a region which stretches from Peterborough to Southend on Sea, and from Watford to Great Yarmouth, our small team cannot hope to pick up every local story. So we are always glad when people give us leads, whether or not they want to write about them.
Finally, we also welcome volunteers who can contribute by finding pictures, drawing cartoons, with skills in information technology or social media.
A showcase of our best stories
All the stories from the last two years are available on our East Anglia Bylines website. But, for people who have only just found us, or joined recently, we have curated a series of our best stories from the last year. We will republish one of these each afternoon for the next week.