Meet the new team: Sean Bell talks Edinburgh, journalism and fitting right in at CommonSpace


Having just joined CommonSpace as our new parliamentary reporter, Sean Bell explains a bit more about himself

“Take Hitler and stick him on the funny page … No, no, leave the rooster story alone – that’s human interest.” – Cary Grant, His Girl Friday (1940)

MY NAME is Sean Bell. My journalism has appeared in the Herald, the Sunday Herald, the National, the Evening Times, the Scottish Review of Books, Jacobin, Fest and PopMatters. I’ve worked as a political commentator, columnist, feature writer, critic, editor, media consultant and bartender. This August, I joined CommonSpace as their new parliamentary reporter.

In an astonishing display of inadvertent slapstick, I entered professional journalism shortly after the Great Recession began in 2008. I subsequently entered my local jobcentre in 2010. Nevertheless, one way or another, I have been in journalism ever since.

As a communist, I naturally despise exorbitant wealth, so it is therefore fortunate that I have chosen a career where I can avoid it with incredible ease.

READ MORE – Meet the new team: Caitlin Logan explains how CommonSpace helped her make a big choice

I briefly considered becoming an author of dystopian fiction, but recent years have rendered that career path supremely irrelevant.

Amanda Palmer once said I deserved a Pulitzer. Significantly, no one ever disagreed.

My areas of speciality are constitutional matters, Scottish and international politics, economic inequality, activism, anti-imperialism and Bob Dylan. It is my firm belief that all of these are essentially interconnected. One day, I will explain how.

It is a great privilege to be working at CommonSpace, which has featured some of the finest Scottish journalists of my generation, given them an unusual degree of autonomy, and done its bit to help delay their eventual starvation.

Personally, I was attracted to CommonSpace by the strength of their coverage, the integrity of their staff, the bravery in their choice of focus, and the fact they allow me to work from home, where I can play Warren Zevon records four or five hours a day, as opposed to an office, where such practices are traditionally discouraged.

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Radical journalism is profoundly necessary, particularly at a time when the fourth estate faces unprecedented and mounting challenges, both ethical and economic, here and worldwide. 

In Scotland, a nation still in the process of discovering itself, where radicalism and mass political engagement have often gone beyond the Scottish media’s ability to keep up or comprehend, CommonSpace is especially vital. Whatever happens, we will have much work to do in the years ahead.

I don’t agree with everything CommonSpace has ever published, since the only people I do agree with entirely are either fictitious or dead. Nevertheless, while many media organisations profess a commitment to providing a diversity of opinion, CommonSpace actually embodies it. In consequence, it provokes reaction and debate, precisely as I believe it was intended to do.

Importantly, CommonSpace isn’t in the tank for anyone. Each of our staff is animated by principles and ideas and arguments, few of them shared by all, but not blind or dishonest allegiances. There are some who will refuse to believe that, and as frustrating as that may be, it’s our responsibility to try and prove our critics wrong. That, or make fun of them. We can do both.

I aim to provide the best coverage I can of the stories everyone’s talking about, as well as the stories that nobody is talking about.

I live in Edinburgh, the city of my birth, where we make the civilisation. Thankfully, the rest of the CommonSpace staff appear not to hold this against me.

Look at how important CommonSpace has become, and how vital it is for the future #SupportAReporter