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Last Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Scurrilious magazine scoops top award
By Dickon Hooper
BBC News, Bristol

(l-r) Ian Bone, Jane Nicoll and Roy Norris
The Bristolian editorial team celebrate the award
Scurrilous news magazine The Bristolian has scooped runner-up in the inaugural Paul Foot campaigning journalism award.

The BBC News website examines how the satirical magazine won its accolade as the "voice of the streets".

Ian Bone, editor of The Bristolian, said he was delighted at being recognised in the awards.

"It's an amazing achievement for a small paper like ours. We are more than pleased to be runners up."

The Bristolian, which made the shortlist for its pieces on Bristol City Council and the "John Astley Affair", was described by the judges as "spiky, iconoclastic, rude and abrasive", and as the "authentic voice of the streets".

Astley, a former Lib Dem city councillor, was convicted last year of election fraud and downloading child pornography.

[The Bristolian] never once phoned... any council office to find out if the stories they heard down the pub were true
Bristol council

The magazine works on the premise that those in power are disconnected from their concerns of the majority - and need to be reminded whose money they are spending.

Tim Holmes, a lecturer in magazine journalism at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, said: "People do like [this type of publication] as it comes with a tinge of authenticity.

"People like to have something they can believe in as an alternative to the official version. There is always room for this.

"They are tapping into the Samizdat idea of an underground press that brings you the truth."

Another source of alternative news in the city is the Indymedia website. A couple of volunteers told BBC News that they were "pleased" that The Bristolian's efforts had been recognised.

"Whilst often controversial, they have also uncovered major news stories that the mainstream media has missed," the volunteers, who asked not to be named, said.

They have uncovered major news stories that the mainstream media has missed
Indymedia Bristol volunteers

"We're especially pleased that an independent media project from Bristol has gained national recognition."

But the magazine has its detractors.

A spokesperson for the city council said the authority was "surprised" at the award.

"[The Bristolian] never once phoned this office, or indeed any council office, to find out if the stories they heard down the pub were true before they printed them, so if they can win a journalism award, I could probably win a Nobel Prize and may give it a go next year."

The authority says Astley's activities were exposed by its investigation with the police, and that it could not reveal details at the time because of legal considerations.

Election candidates

The magazine has relaunched in hard copy from its internet form, and also fielded candidates in the 2003 city council elections.

Dave Harvey, political editor for BBC West, said they had filled public meetings.

"They were a breath of fresh air. But when it came to it, they only marshalled a few hundred votes and the traditional politicians got in."

The Paul Foot award was set up by Private Eye and The Guardian in April 2002, with entries submitted by applicants themselves.

A shortlist of 25 was whittled down to six and the other runners up were Felicity Lawrence, Heather Brooke, Eamonn O'Neill and Daniel Foggo and Charlotte Edwardes.

The Daily Mail's John Sweeney walked off with the top prize of 5,000 for his work on shaken baby syndrome.

Freedom of press under attack?
30 Jun 05 |  Bristol/Somerset
Obituary: Paul Foot
19 Jul 04 |  UK
Bristolian to relaunch
30 Oct 03 |  Bristol/Somerset

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