Alternative facts: not only an issue for mainstream media

The International Network of Street Papers (INSP) is a Glasgow-based charity founded in 1994 that supports and develop 110 street paper projects in 35 countries, in 24 languages. 

The network, which includes newspapers and magazines operating on a social enterprise self-help model, has a combined readership of 5.8 million per edition. In the last year, all INSP media “sold 23.3 million copies, putting £25 million in the pockets of some of the world’s most vulnerable people,” according to an INSP press release about the 30 March panel discussion.


Award-winning investigative journalist and academic Eamonn O’Neill will chair the panel, according to the release. Participants including journalist and broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove, Peter Geoghegan – director of The Ferret and author of The People’s Referendum, Susan Smith – editor of Third Force News and Angela Haggerty – editor of CommonSpacel (all UK), and Tim Harris – INSP board member and founder and director of Seattle’s street paper Real Change – who will provide a view from the street paper network and the United States. 

The Ferret is an independent media co-operative that is owned by its writers and subscribers. Commenting to INSP on journalism vs. ‘Alternative Facts’, Geoghegan said: “The case for journalism has never been stronger. Authoritative, sceptical reporting is an integral part of a healthy society – and a healthy democracy. But the same digital technology that is disrupting the business model on which journalism has relied on is aiding the spread of propaganda and disinformation – often for political purposes. There is a clear need for alternative models for funding journalism, but also alternative ways for challenging misreporting and bias. There are no easy answers but the conversations need to start now.” 

Susan Smith, who edits Scotland’s only third sector news outlet Third Force News, told INSP: “Journalists should be as committed to the truth as a doctor is to saving lives. Unfortunately, truth is more complicated than life and death – it has always been open to interpretation. In a world where propaganda can spread globally within minutes, it’s easy to see how confusing it is for people, who don’t know who to believe. That’s why it is more important than ever that professional news outlets assert their total commitment to professional ethical standards and the public continues to support professional journalism they know they can trust.” 

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Angela Haggerty, who edits news site Common Space – ‘a place to network, share ideas and discuss the issues affecting Scotland’, said: “It’s high time we got around to talking about so-called fake news, and I really welcome wide debate on it. But it’s also time that we got more honest about it – the phenomenon of completely fabricated news to capitalise on online advertising may be a new development, but bold dishonesty in the established media certainly isn’t. We can’t keep pretending that one form of media is legitimate above all others when the evidence suggest otherwise. If we want a better media, we have to get serious about it, and we have to acknowledge that we have big problems.”

INSP Chief Executive Maree Aldam said: “For the past two decades our street papers have offered a lifeline for thousands of homeless people, but they have also been an important part of the alternative media landscape, reporting on social injustice and representing marginalised voices. The current state of global affairs means that this dual role is now more important than ever, and there has never been a better time to have this conversation. We’re delighted to bring this fantastic panel together in Glasgow for what will be a fascinating discussion.” 

The event is part of a series connected to UNCOVERED: still homeless, still an issue – the world’s first exhibition celebrating the creativity and social impact of street papers and magazines worldwide. 

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To follow the conversation as it unfolds, follow it on Twitter using the hashtag #UncoveredINSP. 

For more information, contact Laura Dunlop at

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