POST, an ‘open participation journalism’ project based in Edinburgh, is launching today with its first edition, offered in a limited print run and for free online.
Says its editors, the magazine is “designed as a forum for all kinds of new thinking about politics, democracy, culture, information and sustainability”.
Founding editors, Lee Bunce and Dominic Hinde, answer the questions…
How did the project come about?
Having met at university in Edinburgh, we’d been talking about doing some kind of journalism project for a few years.
Dominic had ideas about doing a ‘green culture’ magazine based on his research (he is writing a PhD) and Lee had become interested in issues surrounding open knowledge. The idea was we would combine our fields to bring something a bit different to the market, accessible to all.
Explain the thinking behind the production’s ‘look and feel’
We wanted to get away from being a run of the mill, dogmatic politics magazine. From the word go, there was emphasis that the ideas should be innovative, rather than re-hashing old grievances, and that the whole thing feel should be modern and cooler than your average politics or academic publication.
Who are the key personnel? How were they recruited?
We edit it ourselves, and, for the time being, we are the Post project, but our contributors range from academics and artists to bloggers and activists.
We don’t just let anyone write, that’s what blogs are for, but when we think someone has expertise or something really interesting to say, then we’ll commission them. In one sense, it is about curation as much as commissioning. We are also open to republishing content released under creative commons, because a lot of the time it is about framing and bringing stuff to new audiences.
What kit and software?
As a matter of principle we have used free open-source software. That meant a WordPress website, Scribus layout and publishing software and Gimp imaging software for the design work. And our email stuff is done by Riseup.net, with the mail server, Thunderbird.
For images, we used a range of commons material, things we photographed ourselves on the cheapest SLR we could find, and did some composite work using freely-available media.
What have been the main production challenges?
Just after we had got the website online to test it and announce the project around Christmas, the whole server was subject to a massive hack, including our bank details. That took a lot of time sorting out.
We’d both worked in publishing previously, but there were all sorts of new things to learn such as html/CSS for the website and grappling with the quite impressive but tricky new technology which had come along since we last worked on such things.
The biggest challenge was probably juggling it alongside our day jobs (Lee works at the University of Edinburgh, Dom is a full-time PhD student). When you decide you are going to run something non-commercially, that has to be done in what is effectively your spare time. There was a point when Dom was writing an academic paper, translating a novel and trying to get articles edited to deadline. He had to have a long lie down afterwards.
Lee relocated from London just as we set the magazine up, which made the process a lot easier. Previously, everything had been done online via videophone and email from all over the place – Stockholm, London, Teesside, Edinburgh, Manchester and Sussex. It was a question of grabbing a few minutes and borrowing someone’s broadband a lot of the time.
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
Learning all kinds of new, and unexpected skills has been fun but challenging. Lee’s transition from philosophy student to hacker was never intended, but has proven to be a worthwhile undertaking. Dom found it quite challenging, developing a style, when you have all sorts of people writing for you. Tech people, academics and journalists all write in different ways, so trying to accommodate them in one whole was an art in itself. We hope that we’ve just about nailed it.
It has also been great to get feedback from people about the project, generally. We showed previews to friends and they said things like, “I’d not thought about that before”, which gave us a boost. Often, when you set out to do stuff, you are scared nobody is going to read it even if you think it is great. There is definitely a market for people doing something a bit different. We hope that Post will become more than us and that the positive feedback translates into people joining the project and helping us to produce more.