What is the Role of Left Media Today?

Ahead of tomorrow’s fundraiser and launch, our Political Editor decided to lay out why The Last Round exists, and what its role is in the wider scheme of things. Our launch is in The Sunflower Bar Sunday April 3rd @ 19.00.

The last few years have been riddled with uncertainly and strange developments for mainstream media outlets, the Independent no longer produces a paper and Rupert Murdoch is launching a web publication called Heat Street, a publication that will be headed up by Louise Mensch and has the slogan ‘#nosafespaces’. Murdoch’s move is most certainly pushed by declining circulation numbers that blight many big names in the media game.

The decline in print circulation has led some to believe that the media, as we know it, is dead and see the decline in circulation as a decline in influence. This is true to a degree, a survey of people who supported Jeremy Corbyn in last year’s Labour Leadership race showed that an overwhelming majority of his supporters stated that they received their news primarily through social media. This is a snapshot of the titanic sea changes that are taking place, spurred by the internet and advances in mobile technology, that are changing how news is produced, distributed and consumed.

Capitalist media outlets have really struggled to adapt to these changes, the financial troubles of the Guardian, the Independent going online only & Murdoch’s push for Heat Street are real indicators of that struggle. But there is more, as these publications abandon print for the proclaimed mecca of the Internet, publications that are grassroots and left wing have grown.

In Dublin, Rabble is currently putting out its eleventh issue, and can boast of a massive social media following that extends beyond Dublin. In London, STRIKE Magazine not only produces a very popular print edition, but is also connected to the flypostering campaigns of ‘subvertising’ across the city, a string of posters made to look like ads, that criticise racist policing and ‘#bullshitjobs’. The fact that these print publications are able to do so well in cities blighted by housing crises and low waged, precarious work  shows that print isn’t dead, just right wing print propaganda.

In Belfast, we have media outlets that represent the different interests of our divided city. We have Nationalist, Unionist papers as well as papers that clearly represent our city’s business interests. Outside of publications produced by far left parties, we have nothing. This is part of the reason why The Last Round exists, to take what Rabble, STRIKE and other radical publications do and bring them home.

But what is our role?

We are not ‘the riot’?

yes, I just referenced The Coup’s song that was written as a lesson to artists, the lesson being that we can support movements for equality and justice etc. But we never substitute ourselves for these movements.

We live in a very politicised society that hates politics, by politics I mean political parties. There is a shopping list reasons why this is the case but I won’t go into them however, we can see that the media has, either consciously or implicitly (probably both), helped this situation by drowning out the voices of those who seek to bring another world view to Northern Ireland. A view that doesn’t support austerity, hates sectarianism and most importantly, wants to combat sectarianism as part of a wider struggle for economic and social justice in the region. In my view, The Last Round exists to give voice to these people and organisations whenever possible. This is also my view when it comes to radical media in general.

It’s about more than being an alternative voice

Many left wing publications start, because they want to be the alternative voice that they hear friends and co-workers yearn for after watching yet another show of the Nolan Circus, or a terrible session of Question Time. We were no different, we wanted to create a publication that supported people fighting for a better future, as well as wanting to offer culture coverage with a difference.

But we can’t produce reams of polemics, reviews and critiques forever. As great as the internet and print are for spreading ideas and news, I feel there is an exciting option that we haven’t explored to its full potential. In the US, there is a group called ‘Drinking Liberally’. They organise events for like minded liberal people to come together and discuss politics over a beverage.

I’m not suggesting that The Last Round will organise an endless string of piss ups, but I think there is merit in organising offline events. We came very close to launching in October with a panel discussion on ‘Precarious Work’ with Dave Smith, Author of ‘Blacklisted‘ on the panel. The idea was scrapped as we figured we should focus on content with our limited resources.

If radical or left wing media wants to be serious about providing a platform for alternative views and analysis; we have to go beyond producing media as we know it and start organising semi regular events that allow people to come together and discuss ideas. Some already do this, Lookleft Magazine organises the ‘Lookleft Forum‘ that allows people to discuss certain topics in person.

But you’re just a publication

We are, but publications shouldn’t limit themselves to what they think the game is, especially if we want to be serious about providing a space for analysis that flies in the face of lazy, stagnant and sometimes just completely shite, mainstream media outlets.

The reality is that our role is be more than just a publication, or at least, more than what we understand publications to be now. The ideas of societies free from economic exploitation, sexism, racism, anti LGBTQ bigotry and sectarianism know no limits. Equally, the opponents of these ideas and the media outlets they own know no limit to their resources, so why should we?

Tyler McNally is the Political Editor of The Last Round, he can be found on Twitter.