It's almost a year since we started the Eye with the hope of creating the sort of local newspaper we would like to read ourselves. We wanted to properly investigate some of the rumours flying around Faversham, uncover secrets that should never have been secret in the first place and help bring some kind of democratic transparency to the town… and have some fun along the way.
We didn't expect it to be anywhere near as popular as it is. The positive reaction we have received from most of the community has been quite overwhelming and we are very, very grateful to all our readers for your support.
Faversham is many things but boring isn't one of them. As journalists, we're lucky to live in a place full of fascinating, talented people up to all kinds of interesting stuff. In this issue, we feature some outstanding work by world-famous sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, who has a studio here in town, artist Lucy Wood who sailed an African refugee boat all the way to Faversham Creek, and our own multi-talented Alex Law, whose stunning photograph of the swing bridge finally being lifted instantly became an iconic local image. And we have a special Christmas treat for fans of Faversham's favourite absurdist fake news site The Spire, with an exclusive festive tale from its creator Andy Capon.
Many Eye readers will share our deep disappointment at the General Election result. But how will the Johnson Government impact Faversham? If the last ten years of Conservative rule are anything to judge by, we can expect, at the least, more poverty, even longer waits to see a doctor, even more housebuilding, fewer police and services like our post office scaled back and sold off or closed down. The Cleve Hill solar power station now looks more likely and Brexit will hit tourism and farming hard.
The Eye will continue campaigning on these and other issues and publishing stories those in power would rather you didn't see. After trying to stop us from distributing our recent Election Special (and shouting at us in the Market Place while we handed it out!), our local Conservative MP Helen Whately suggested she would like to work with us after the election for the good of Faversham. We intend to hold her to that and will be watching her voting habits extremely carefully and reporting, in detail, how they affect our town.
In fact, the next five years may well turn out to be golden era for investigative reporting and independent journalism. The country needs questioning voices now more than any time in living memory. And we're not naive enough to expect the very tax-avoiding, billionaire national news media owners who installed Boris Johnson to hold him and his government properly to account.
So it will be down to a handful of national papers and the growing number of local independent newspapers, community blogs and citizen journalists to expose government wrongdoing and challenge official propaganda.
Good, independent local papers are like little democracy machines: plug one into a community and watch the flow of information blow away corruption. At the moment these grass-roots, so-called ' hyperlocal' news outfits are scattered around the country, often operating in isolation. But, from January, the Eye will work to bring them together to help promote democracy countrywide. We will share lessons learned, pool information and expertise and collaborate on big investigations. We have also taken on two young volunteer reporters. With help and training from us, they will share their stories and perspectives on Faversham.
National change may take a long time but we like to think The Eye has made a small difference locally. People and communities will need to help each other in the coming years and we aim to be part of that.
Have a great Christmas and see you on the other side.
BEST WISHES FOR 2020