Sam Easterbrook is the editor of The Sprout, a Promo-Cymru project that is Cardiff’s online news and information platform written by young people for young people.
Launching in 2007 The Sprout was the first of it’s kind in Wales’ previously top down system of providing youth information. It became the inspiration for the Clic network launching similar websites across Wales.
Sam has been involved in The Sprout from very early on, attending his first youth editorial meeting in 2008 and working his way up.
“I started out as a freelance sub-editor. Then became a full time sub-editor and in 2013 I became editor.”
The Sprout has 20-30 writers and about ten of these attend the monthly Sprout editorial group meetings.
Sprout editorial group meetings take place on the last Thursday of every month in Cardiff’s central library.
Sam describes the structure of a group meeting, “ we ask one of the young people to chair the meeting, we take minutes and try to make sure that everybody who wants a say has a say.”
The Sprout is very focused on youth information, with their news section always trying to link to pages in the information section.
“As well as the magazine element on the sprout we have the information section so what underpins the site, you’ll often see in a lot of articles, we’ve a got a review of a film about domestic violence we’ll often link to our domestic violence information, we’ll link to organisations that help with domestic violence, so at the heart of it is youth information.”
They also try to run monthly themes that can be linked back to their information pages. Contributors get rewarded with time credits for the time they spent writing and researching articles for The Sprout.
Time credits allow free leisure activities, equivalent to the time spent on articles.
“We’ve started doing a monthly kind of theme and campaign using time credits for it. I think December’s is going to be homelessness we discussed this in the editorial meeting so it’s what themes we want to go down we try to link it back to the information section, so we’ve had education, mental health and homelessness. How it works is a young person can write an article on that’s a poem, an opinion piece or a researched article, that they’ve spent writing it and researching it that they get time credits for.”
The Sprout which is funded by Families First in Cardiff has recently relaunched.
It was originally funded by the children’s and young people’s partnership within Cardiff council so the website has seen some changes recently.
“ It was a bit of a change because obviously families first has a wide range of needs people and ages; and the sprout is very much 11-25, is very much embedded within youth work but I think we’ve made it work, I think our funders are very happy with what we do.”
The Sprout was fortunate to be able to find alternative funders as many of the websites in the Clic network that it inspired have shut down due to cuts by the Welsh Government.
It is clear Sam feels strongly about the cuts to youth services and is concerned about how they will affect young people.
“Youth work, youth information, youth centres have taken a pounding over the last 5 years because they’re not statutory. Education is statutory, health is statutory that stuff obviously has to be funded cuts have got to come in, what gets cut? It’s youth work because it isn’t statutory and youth information is part of that.”
On a recent to visit to Helsinki, a city half to size of Cardiff, Sam learnt that they have 40 youth provisions compared to only six in Cardiff.
He feels that with regards to youth services, “Wales was always a leader, Wales still is leader especially with online stuff. Hopefully whenever we eventually get out of this recession or whatever you want call it or austerity, hopefully we’ll still have the bones to rebuild youth information in wales”
Sam wasn’t involved with youth services as a child and became involved with The Sprout very much through coincidence, but is passion for youth services is evident.
“I didn’t go to youth centres didn’t do anything like that and I really wish that something like the sprout had existed when I was a kid. I would’ve absolutely loved it. So I’ve come at it from an outsider’s perspective but now I really appreciate the role that youth work has, the important work it does.”
The Sprout really can be seen as an inspirational platform, in addition to giving young people a voice and increasing their confidence, some of their previous contributors have gone onto successful careers in journalism.
“We had a young man called Arthur who did an awful lot of work both written and video about the EU referendum. He’s from Belgium but to British parents and he now works in the press department at the European parliament. I think the work he did for the sprout certainly contributed to that.”
With contributors as young as 11 everything even comments are checked before going live on the website to protect against copyright infringement and to prevent trolling.
However the website is is designed to give young people a voice so editing is minimal.
“We always try and edit with a very light touch… If we do make any changes we’ll talk to the young person and tell them this is why we’ve done this.”
Lately, Sam has taken on more a project manager role at The Sprout, with a lot of the editing now being left to his sub-editors.
This is because of the recent launch of a new promo-cymru project called Family Point, where he does a lot of work with editorial and content side of things.
“Family point is a kind of information hub and news hub for families in Wales. The focus is on low income families but it’s a universal service as well as the website and magazine element there’s also a helpline. Basically the aim is to make sure that families know of all the services that are available to them and all the support that’s available to them.”
Here’s to Sam’s continued success at promo-cymru.