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2022: The Year in Review

Jonathan Heawood looks back on a productive year at PINF.

We launched the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF) because we believe that everyone should benefit from journalism that speaks to them, for them and with them. We focus our support on independent news publishers because they reach the communities that other parts of the media do not, and because they tend not to receive support from other sources.

My personal highlights of 2022 included:

  • The Impact Fund, through which we showed how independent local journalism drives democratic engagement

  • The Local News Plans project, through which we have been talking to local communities across the UK about what they want from local journalism

  • The Independent News Forum, at which an amazing group of news providers came together in Leeds to share experiences and ideas for the future.

The year got underway with the launch of the PINF Index 2022. Every year, we survey independent publishers to find out more about the challenges and opportunities they face. We were pleased that this year we had a 29% increase in our response rate, helping us to build a richer understanding of the sector, and we were very pleased to be working again with Clare Cook and Coral Milburn-Curtis, who bring such exceptional skills to the Index.

Also in January, we launched a beautiful series of films by Emilie Flower, showcasing the work of independent news publishers across the UK: ‘The Craft of Public Interest News’. Whilst the Index is built on data, Emilie’s films tell the human side of the story, with inspiring contributions from Black Ballad, the Bristol Cable, the Caerphilly Observer, Now Then Magazine, Shetland News and West Leeds Dispatch.

In February, I spoke to Jacob Granger about the state of independent news for the podcast. In the same month, the DCMS Select Committee opened an inquiry into the sustainability of local journalism.

We spent a lot of time in March drafting our own detailed submission to the inquiry, whilst co-ordinating submissions from a range of publishers and organising a joint submission on behalf of the newly formed ‘News for All’ campaign. We also welcomed Polly Curtis to the PINF board, adding her high-level experience of the news industry to the skills of our other trustees, Jo Adetunji, Lord Inglewood, Isabelle Roughol, Patrick Swaffer and Julius Weinberg. We are very grateful to all of them for the significant time and energy they give to PINF.

In April, I travelled to the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, to speak on a panel about why journalism is failing democracy. I loved meeting people from around the world who are so passionate about journalism – and so ready to ask big questions about how journalism can become better. I came back with renewed energy for our work – which was fortunate, because there was a lot of it!

Throughout the first part of the year, we were busy with our Transformation Programme, building new partnerships between news publishers and people with lived experience of discrimination and disadvantage; and our Impact Fund, finding out how local journalism can drive democratic engagement. On both projects, we benefited hugely from the advice of Joanna Reynolds, our learning partner, and on the Transformation Programme, we were also honoured to work with Shirish Kulkarni, Marcus Ryder, Hazel Sheffield and Robyn Vinter.

We worked on the Transformation Programme with publishers including The Independent, The Mirror and Bedford Independent; and on the Impact Fund with Bylines Central; Enfield Dispatch; Newham Voices; Southwark News; and Switch Radio.

In May, I gave evidence to the Select Committee, alongside Adam Cantwell-Corn, co-founder of the Bristol Cable, and Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists. Together, we worked to persuade MPs that new policies are needed to ensure a sustainable future for public interest journalism in the UK.

In June, we launched our Local News Plans project, in partnership with NewsNow, the news discovery platform, and the international journalism expert Sameer Padania. At the same time, we published the findings of the PINF Index 2022, showing that the typical independent publisher is doing everything they can to strengthen democracy – but generating income of only £31,000. We have used this finding to raise awareness of the challenges facing independent publishers among donors and policymakers.

On 13 July, we ran a fascinating workshop at the Oxford Media Convention, at which participants discussed the many ways in which journalism can have a positive impact on communities.

During the autumn, we ran a series of Local News Plan workshops, with essential support from local stewards in each location – Audrey Green Oakes and Creative Folkestone in Folkestone; Eve Livingston in Glasgow; Shanice Blair and Open Data Manchester in Manchester; Eliz Mizon in Bristol; and Columba O’Hare in Newry. We will complete this series in the New Year with a workshop in Bangor with Aled Job, before drawing our conclusions together into a report. (See the Media APPG blog for a preview of our findings.)

When we weren’t talking to local communities about what they want from local news, we were talking to independent news providers about how they want to serve their communities. On 15 October, we gathered in Leeds for the first Independent News Forum, generating exciting ideas for the sector which we will take forward in the New Year. Later that month, I flew to New York to meet up with other experts who are safeguarding public interest news in the US, Australia, Canada and South Africa, to learn from each other and share plans.

In November, we published a full report on the Impact Fund. We also led a discussion about local news at the Folkestone Book Festival; took part in the launch of the Scottish Public Interest Journalism Institute; advised the Welsh working group on public interest journalism; and supported News Futures 2035, a visionary project led by Francois Nel at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). We also welcomed two new members to the PINF team, Hani Barghouthi, our Campaigns Manager, and Max Roche, our freelance Researcher.

Next year, you can expect to hear more from us about:

  • The News for All campaign, which will be going up a gear as we seek to ensure that independent publishers get a fair share of revenue from digital platforms

  • Our Local News Map, through which we are aiming to identify every professional local news outlet in the UK

  • The Working Groups that formed at the Independent News Forum, such as the Impact working group, which is meeting online on 24 January

And so much more, as we continue to make sure that, in the long term, everyone in the UK can benefit from public interest news that speaks to them, for them and with them.

Right now, though, it’s time for a mince pie and a few days off.

We look forward to seeing you in 2023!

Jonathan Heawood is Executive Director of PINF.


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