Building a positive relationship with the regional and local media was a vital part of our work, to enable local people to speak and be heard. In Manchester in the early 2000s, communities and individuals faced the challenge of showing that stories about ‘Gunchester’ did not reflect the reality of life for most people. News reports tended to sensationalise gun crime in Moss Side. If there was a shooting in the area it would often feature in national news coverage whereas shootings in other cities would only be covered in their local news. Even today as we know there have been various shootings and stabbings in other parts of South Manchester and Moss Side has still been mentioned.
Finding ways to encourage the media to be more balanced in their reporting and feature positive news stories has been a key feature of our work over the last twenty years. We have worked with other local community organisations and individuals to engage with the Manchester Evening News and ITV at a strategic level. Running training with journalists and editors to help them understand the impact of sensationalist reporting has resulted in a shift to greater coverage of positive stories. In the case of ITV, Erinma Bell was invited to join the Diversity Advisory Group and, as a result, she became and remains one of the ‘go to’ sources for comment when journalists were covering incidents in the area. Inviting media representatives to cover high profile events such as the PeaceWeek lantern parades and balloon release had the twin benefits of providing a compelling and visually appealing story for media outlets and showing clearly that the majority of people in the area are keen to stand up for peace. The launch, in 2008, of the Outstanding Social Behaviour Awards, the OSBAs (which is a deliberate play on Anti-Social Behaviour Orders [ASBOs]) took this work with the local media to another level.
Based on the idea that there needed to be a high-profile reward for people making a positive contribution as well as punishments for those causing harm, the Awards recognise people who are doing good things in and for the community or who have turned their lives around. A play on both The Oscars and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders the Awards have received extensive local and national media coverage.
Nominations and categories:
The Awards recognise and applaud the efforts of people who have made a positive difference to the lives of others in the community, but also mark the achievements of people who have had the courage and determination to move away from crime and violence. Anyone can make a nomination and judges are drawn from community organisations and the local media. The Award categories have developed over time and include:
- Community Cohesion/Diversity Award: Individual or group who have been instrumental in bringing together diverse groups in the community for positive change.
- Young Persons Award: Young person (aged 11-18) who has made an outstanding contribution to their school, college or community.
- Positive Role Model Award: Person who has had most positive impact on young people through their lives.
- Turn Around Award: Individual who has made greatest turnaround in attitude/behaviour to benefit his/her community.
- Peace Activist Award: Person or group who have made a difference through campaigning for peace and justice.
- Manchester Peace Award: Individual who has made the most outstanding contribution to their community.
Sponsorship and profile:
The OSBAs are announced and presented at a gala dinner event which is sponsored by local businesses and organisations and attended by nominees, local politicians, senior police officers and local community organisations. This raises the profile of the event but also provides a means for mobilising the interest and engagement of local businesses in supporting positive life chances for people in their local community. Actively involving the media as sponsors, judges and presenters of the award evening has deepened the interest and understanding of journalist and editors in the positive contributions being made across communities in Manchester and reinforced a message of hope and the possibility of transformation and positive change in the lives of individuals and communities.
The individual OSBA awards are sponsored by individual businesses and or corporate organisations. Glass/crystal awards are given to winners along with a financial element and a certificate. All runners up receive a smaller glass/crystal award along with a certificate.
Each winner is also featured in the local Manchester Evening News. Having a personal article in the local paper gives genuine positive kudos to the individual and their associates usually follow suite.