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February 26, 2024

AI – the good, the bad and the unknown

When a friend explained how AI played a key role in his knee replacement surgery, I began to appreciate how this bewildering technology could become a real force for good. But then I heard that an AI generated video message, looking and sounding like the CEO of a large charity, had been sent to the Chief Finance Officer authorising a large transfer of funds.  How does one ever know who or what source of information to trust? I’m not sure why, but it feels that projects such as The Beacon are about to become more important than ever.

Clara Aberneithie, The Press Gazette

There is an appetite for local journalism according to work done by The Scottish Beacon.

Collaborative journalism projects can “better hold power to account” says The Scottish Beacon’s project manager, Rhiannon Davies.

Launched in August last year by a team at Greater Govanhill, a Glasgow-based not-for-profit magazine, The Scottish Beacon is a website that showcases work from 22 independent local and hyperlocal newsrooms across Scotland.

Davies won the Women in Journalism Georgina Henry Award at the 2023 British Journalism Awards for her role in starting the project.

It has two main aims: networking for publisher members and amplifying their stories.

Davies told Press Gazette: “We not only make local independent journalism more visible, but also build a strong foundation where we do peer-to-peer training to offer advice and informal support.

Davies added: “The Scottish Beacon was very much inspired by similar collaborative projects that have already developed in the US.

“There are loads of great examples there that we connected with and got loads of advice and reflections from.”

The project is non-profit, initially gaining funding to launch from the Google News Initiative.

When asked what future funding looked like, Davies said: “We’re still developing our revenue model as we only launched in August and so we’re still exploring different options.

“We have a mixed revenue model based on a ‘pay what you can’ membership income, some collective ad selling, and grant funding.”

The Scottish Beacon launched a printed magazine pilot issue in 2021 when COP 26 visited Glasgow.

Davies explained: “We wanted to do something which would make independent media part of the conversation around environmental issues.

“We asked independent publishers around Scotland to send in stories around community action on climate change which we made into a print publication which we distributed.”

She added: “It was just a one-off at that stage to see if there was an appetite for it, but the response was really positive.

“We had people writing in from all around the country saying that they’d picked up a copy and they were really inspired by the stories.”

Davies researched the foundations for The Scottish Beacon while completing coursework for the University of Central Lancashire’s Journalism Innovation and Leadership postgraduate course in 2022.