If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely heard of the Salford Star. With over 40,000 people a month visiting the website, it is one of the largest publications in Salford. It might also be shutting down.
Started in 2006, the Salford Star has been online since 2009, and the magazine has since run over 6000 stories. Stephen Kingston is one of the founders at the Salford Star and had previously written for mainstream publications such as The Times and the Independent.
“What I found was the real stories you wanted to write, because as a journalist you want to tell the truth, nobody was interested, because the advertisers weren’t interested.
“So I scaled everything back, and started teaching journalism in the community.
“From that, I was offered to reinvigorate a magazine called Trafford News. Somebody in Salford saw it, and said we could do with one of them, we need a voice.
“Salford council were knocking down houses in a place called Whit Lane, and because of that we were asked to do a community magazine.”
Originally in print, the Salford Star had an initial run of eight print issues.
“When we were in print, there were nearly a hundred people involved in it. Photographers, we had five different graphic people, we had students working for us, all sorts of people.
“We won awards, everyone was throwing money at us. But of course, as we were telling the truth, and giving the community a voice, the advertisers had pressure put on them to pull out of it. Salford Council did not like us, so eventually it all disappeared.
“Salford has got these things called community committees. We applied to the community committee, which is all community and not council money. The council then blocked it, threatened the people on the committee with jail, and then changed their whole constitution to stop any publication being funded.
“Eventually all the advertising kind of disappeared, apart from money from very small, independent companies. We just couldn’t sustain it in print, it was costing too much money. So we decided to take it online.
“And basically, the stuff online, it’s mainly just me. I get up at five every morning. We’ve got a girl on work experience at the minute, and we have a live editor, but he obviously can’t do a lot at the moment. We’ve got people that help us, but when you’re online the turnaround has to be so fast.
“We have a hell of a lot of support, but you can’t be asking volunteers to be getting up at five.”
The magazine is funded mostly through donations and funding.
“We sell T-Shirts and mugs, and have even had money from secret trust funds and developers. People like to see somebody holding people to account.
“Even if they are developers or rich people, they like to see some democracy and accountability, and that’s what we’re about. Salford council do not speak to us, but individual councillors do, all the time.
“There’s only really one story at the minute, and that’s Covid. Hyperlocals, people trust what we’re saying. The information comes from that community. With Covd, we’re the only ones doing the figures everyday.
— salford star mag (@salfordstar09) December 21, 2020
“And there’s no information coming out. We don’t even know where the vaccination centres are, it’s a big secret. In a time of emergency, it really is about communication. It’s very difficult as a journalist to tell people what’s going on, when no one is telling us.
“They didn’t change the tiers in Salford, even though we’re below the national average, and the mayor didn’t say anything. Rebbeca Long-Bailey didn’t say anything . Where is the leadership? People want clear messages, and they want leadership, and there isn’t any in Salford at the minute, and that’s absolutely scandalous.
“In terms of what’s going on, or public health messages, local journalism is very important. When we had the floods in Salford, and no one knew what was happening, we were the only ones on the ground.
“The council is still not sending us health information to give out to the public. To me, Salford council should have taught Trump how to do it.
“There is no accountability. If people won’t put themselves up for scrutiny, it’s a really sad state of affairs. The only person who’s speaking at the moment is Andy Burnham.”
Salford has 73 new coronavirus cases as Greater Manchester sees a 45% reduction in infections over last two weeks – But GM Mayor, Andy Burnham, reckons the region will still be in post lockdown Tier 3 https://t.co/Uuhq6zQP7C #Salford #coronavirusuk #tiersystem pic.twitter.com/VG0Ay2cugU
— salford star mag (@salfordstar09) November 26, 2020
Although being in its fourteenth year, and having 40,000 monthly readers, Stephen is thinking of shutting down the publication in May next year.
“We were actually going to shut last May. There’s no money at all; we’d ran out last May but luckily we got some money from Google. But this May, we will probably shut it down. We kept it going because of Covid, but probably after the elections in May we’ll probably close.
“There’s a time limit for these things. The Northern Star, which is what we’re named after, only lasted five years. Unless something spectacular happens, we will probably shut down.”