In 2022 the news didn’t stop, and nor did the Novara Media Articles team – for our four contracted days of the week. With assistance from a bevvy of fantastic freelancers, Novara’s editorial output this year has only grown in scope and range.
To mark the end of a big 12 months, the Articles team have pulled together a Christmas selection box of their favourite pieces from 2022 – along with the story they wish we’d had time to cover. Read on for our personal highlights – and thanks for all your support.
Picked by head of articles Charlotte England.
Property guardian companies pit poor people against each other. Not only have they eroded tenants’ rights over the past decade – normalising substandard living conditions and abrupt evictions – but they’ve actively facilitated social cleansing, by prising council tenants out of their homes.
This should have come as no surprise: the very concept of guardianship was invented as an “anti-squat” measure in the Netherlands, by a company that then lobbied the British government to criminalise squatting here too.
Yet for a decade, “social enterprise” Dot Dot Dot managed to carefully craft an ethical facade – largely by making guardians work for free in their local communities in exchange for their ramshackle, mould-ridden, poorly-heated accommodations.
It was gratifying, therefore, to have my colleague Rivkah Brown dive into how founder Katharine Hibbert went from squatter to “slumlord” – a term we convinced our lawyer was both accurate and objective.
In general, I’ve been extremely pleased this year to see our reporting develop and feed back into political action. Rivkah has led on this, alongside reporter Sophie K Rosa, new hire Simon Childs, and labour movement correspondent Polly Smythe. Since we broke the Labour leaks story in 2020 (something we revisited this year, with the release of the Forde report), we’ve honed our ability to pick our battles and punch hard with our reporting. From small wins – like pressuring an energy company to switch a family’s heating back on – to exposing the Labour party’s appalling treatment of Apsana Begum, I hope our work continues to have such an impact in 2023.
And one we missed: So much has happened in Latin America this year; spending a couple of months there in the spring only made it clear to me how much we’re missing. While I wrote about Colombia’s election back in June, and Joana Ramiro covered Brazil’s first round from Sao Paulo, we didn’t have anyone on the ground when Lula won, at protests in Ecuador, or for the referendum in Chile.
Picked by contributing editor Moya Lothian-McLean.
The pieces that stick with me always take a really obvious problem – like rubbish reporting on industry – and unpick exactly how things got this bad. Sam Bright’s article analysing the disappearance of labour correspondents in Britain, and the impact on modern politics and work, is a prime example. It’s full of golden nuggets to regurgitate to friends at the pub and opens up yet more avenues of investigation for the reader to pursue once they’ve finished the piece. Loved it.
And one we missed: We desperately tried to cover events in Iran but, understandably, a lot of writers did not have the capacity or just didn’t feel able to openly work on a story. I would have loved to examine how students, especially those at elite Iranian universities, are at the forefront of the protest movement.
Picked by commissioning editor Simon Childs.
The gig economy is a sort of PR effort to rebrand wage theft as encouraging entrepreneurship. Could this ever be progressive? That was the subject of a panel at the Labour party conference, hosted by Blairite think tank Progressive Britain and inevitably sponsored by Deliveroo.
Ask a stupid question and you know what happens. Joe Carberry, corporate communications for Deliveroo, was asked for an example of a gig economy working well. He picked France, where this year the company has been fined 375,000 euros for “wilful infringement” of employment law by subjecting its riders to “almost permanent surveillance”.
If that doesn’t sound particularly progressive to you, then you can thank Novara Media’s labour movement correspondent Polly Smythe for this scoop.
I chose this story because with Labour likely to form the next government, now’s the time to work out what they might do with power.
And one we missed: In a hot-strike year, covering everything was always going to be a tall order. It would have been great to cover more strikes across the world, for instance “Striketober” in the US.
Picked by commissioning editor and reporter Rivkah Brown.
The transatlantic propaganda machine that kicked into gear as soon as Russia invaded Ukraine has made it impossible for those of us who aren’t dyed-in-the-wool Zelensky stans to say virtually anything about the war without being labelled Putin apologists. It’s safe to say that the Articles team has covered Ukraine less than we’d have liked to in this paranoic environment.
This one piece, however, is an instance of when we stuck our heads above the parapet. In it, two Russian left activists set out how the Ukraine war is, as much as anything, a class war, one in which Russian peasants have been incentivised – with early retirement and preferential mortgage terms, exponentially higher salaries and priority university admission – to make themselves cannon fodder in a conflict they don’t want. (We later commissioned a complementary piece on how ethnic minorities are being treated in a similar fashion).
For editors of leftwing platforms like ours, Ukraine has been a challenging subject to commission on – but with some careful planning and a willingness to risk criticism, it’s possible to go deeper than the stifling pro-NATO consensus.
And one we missed: We’ve published some solid analysis of its root causes of the cost of living crisis, as well as its effects, but I still think we could’ve done more to cover the topic, particularly in ways that get audiences to engage with it afresh. Unfortunately, this isn’t a problem that’s going away any time soon, so definitely something we’ll be working on in the new year.
Picked by commissioning editor Clare Hymer.
Another Novara Media scoop, this time from our very own Steven Methven. Steven broke the story of how multinational construction and mining equipment manufacturer Caterpillar offered extra pay and benefits to management staff to go to the company’s Northern Ireland factories while workers there were on strike.
It was a great exclusive highlighting the lengths corporations will go to safeguard their profits, and got picked up by a number of outlets. Cos, you know, we’re real journalists now.
And one we missed: It was a big year for the climate movement, and we struggled to cover it all. One thing I particularly wished we’d reported on is the Tyre Extinguishers, who’ve been deflating SUV tyres worldwide since March. But as the government ramps up its attack on protest in 2023, so too we’ll ramp up our coverage.
Picked by labour movement correspondent Polly Smythe.
Having spent the year covering industrial unrest across the United Kingdom, I’m always fascinated to hear about how these dynamics play out in other countries. For that reason, I loved reading Ben Dunant’s article about couriers taking on the German-owned delivery giant Foodpanda in Myanmar. As a worker says in the piece, “If the revolution wins, Foodpanda will lose.”
And one we missed: Back in July, a bunch of royals, knights, horsemen, courtiers, stablehands and other performers at the tourist attraction Medieval Times in New Jersey voted to unionise. After being subjected to bad pay, entitled customers, and a lack of respect, this merry band of medievalists decided that their best defence was not lance nor mace, but a union card. Knights with the power to duel and bargain – what’s not to love?
Our regular supporters support everything we do. They’ve enabled us to increase our output, enrich our content, and expand our reach. Defy mainstream media and back truly independent journalism from £1 per month. Go to novaramedia.com/support for more details.