MAREE Aldam is chief executive of the Glasgow-based International Network of Street Papers, which supports a global network of publications like The Big Issue (ie social enterprise organisations that offer an income to people living in poverty).
What are your media habits?
I wake up every day to BBC radio – either Good Morning Scotland or the Today programme on Radio 4 – so I’ve usually had a couple of hours’ worth of radio news before I leave the house. On the way to work, I read my work emails and scan news via social media on my phone.
I also read as much as I can from our network, of over 120 publications. We run a news agency for street papers, so we get a great insight into what our street paper network is writing about.
I rarely watch scheduled TV any more, but when I do it’s usually Channel 4 News – I’m a big fan. My TV entertainment usually comes in the form of drama series – recently The Bridge, House of Cards, Borgen and Veep.
I rarely buy a printed newspaper or magazine, except, of course, The Big Issue. I have a few regular vendors around Glasgow, but I try to mix it up a bit so that I can chat to as many vendors as I can.
Any particularly favourite journalists, and why?
Too many to list them all, as I read such a mixture of things, thanks to social media. I follow lots of local, national and international journalists, editors, bloggers, newspapers and magazines on Twitter, and I link to things from there. A few that spring to mind, that I like for a variety of reasons are (and in no particular order) Owen Jones, Robert Fisk, Lesley Riddoch, Ben Goldacre, Laura Bates and the entire Channel 4 news team.
I read about poverty, human rights and homelessness issues via street papers, mainstream media, bloggers and other NGOs. I also follow things like AdAge and The Drum for marketing news; Mashable and Techcrunch for tech and digital news; and things like Forbes magazine and my LinkedIn timeline for business news.
This is such an interesting year for Scotland and I’m currently reading a lot about the referendum. I try to read a broad range of news on politics, so, rather than sticking to one or two publications, I tend to search online for issues that interest me, and pick up articles from there.
I also like a bit of satirical news, like The Onion and The Daily Mash.
To what extent has the media become an increasing or decreasing part of your professional life?
It’s a big and increasing part. Our street papers are independent media, and part of our role is to provide editorial support to our network through our news service.
As well as this, print media is changing rapidly and we’re all too aware of the potential impact on the street paper model. Street papers aren’t experiencing the same sharp decline in readership that many mainstream newspapers and magazines are, because readers are engaged with the vendor as well as the publication. That said, we are very aware of the rate of change and its potential impact for us.
Our network is now trialling various ways to take the street paper concept into the digital age – including digital magazines, apps, social networking and even cashless payments. We share and publicise new models and best practice. We’re certain of the growing need for street papers in our towns and cities, and it’s very exciting to see what the street paper of the future might look like.
To what extent is New Media (websites, social networking, etc) part of your media world?
Very much so – it is my media world. I probably use social networking more for media than I do for communication. There is so much out there, that new media makes it manageable and useful for me.
How would you rate the media understanding, and coverage, of your sector?
We span various – social enterprise, charity, publishing and poverty alleviation – and the fact that we operate in 40 different countries, and in 20+ languages, makes things even more interesting.
The concept of social enterprise is growing at different rates in different countries and it’s good to see increasing media interest in the UK. The publishing sector seems to be receiving increasing global coverage, because of the way that it’s changing.
Across the world, understanding and coverage off issues like poverty and homelessness vary widely, as does coverage of the charity sector. We are relatively lucky in the UK with the quality reportage that social justice issues receive, although there does seem to be an increasing trend of certain media in demonising poor people.
Issues like international development and economic migration are important to our work, and the way these issues are covered by mainstream media can have an impact on our work.
It’s part of INSP’s job to improve understanding and awareness of our own street paper sector. The concept and the work of our members is becoming better understood throughout the world, but we all still have a lot of work to do.
If you were an editor (newspaper, television, etc. state which) for a day, what would you do?
There are lots of issues that I’d like the media to pay more attention to, but, if I have just a day, then I’d use my time to counter some of the negative and unbalanced media coverage that certain issues receive.
I’m interested in the way women are portrayed in the media, so I would want to address some stereotypes and ban any misogynistic advertising.
I’d also commission an amazing infographic artist to present facts and data that would really make people think about the world we live in.
I’d tell positive stories that give a human face to issues like immigration, poverty, welfare benefits, homelessness and asylum seekers.
I would also share some inspiring and hopeful stories from some of the 14,000 street vendors that we work with.