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Defining new models of journalism: Notes from PINF's Zoom call

Previously, on PINF’s blog:

- We held an Independent News Forum in October 2022 in Leeds – recap here.

- Throughout Jan and Feb, we’re hosting an online call on each of those five ideas.

The first in the series of Zoom conversations on the ideas coming out of the Independent News Forum was held last week. We were joined by 22 people from news providers small and very small to discuss defining new models of journalism. It’s a broad topic, and for this post, Joe Mitchell, PINF’s head of impact, attempts to write up some notes from the call.

The need for, and realistic possibility of, a definition

Participants proposed that there is a need for a definition that helps us understand the difference between corporate/legacy media and the independents. It’s also important to understand the difference within this ‘independent’ group – some are more news-orientated, some are more community-orientated … how broad should the definition go?

There were questions about whether it’s possible to define any particular model or approach, when the sector is so diverse. There are different starting points for publishers (such as being locally focused, focused on a campaign or on an identity) - this presents a challenge to identify the values that unite publishers across all those fields.

It was suggested that a definition matters as it helps shape who should be in the room for conversations about support for new models of journalism, and in communication outwards to policymakers and funders. Another suggestion was that while it might be difficult to set a model for how publishers should do things, it should be possible to agree a way to help the public to understand how these new models operate.

There are also questions of philosophy (what we’d like the model to be) versus expediency (what is possible) – though some elements, such as the involvement of community members, might represent both.

What does or should a definition include?

It was proposed that the Media Reform Coalition’s work could help with a framework. See especially their manifesto for a people’s media, which starts with core values:

independence, accountability, democracy and being for everyone.

In the breakout groups and in the plenary discussion a potential list of principles emerged, which echo or could be considered alongside the manifesto:

  • Embedded – journalists are part of the community they cover and do not pretend to be entirely disinterested; the benefits of lived experience of a place; the downsides of ‘parachuted-in journalism’;

  • Participatory – journalists invite contributions from the community – from agenda-setting (editorial meetings, community newsrooms, etc.) to content creation;

  • ‘Journalism +’ - often producing events etc. as well as journalism;

  • Independent - of vested interests;

  • Professional – journalists impose certain standards on the content;

  • Entertaining/accessible – the value of fun and the importance of readability;

  • Collaborative – often working with non-journalistic partners; the role of volunteers in the new models; the role of the Local Democracy Reporters; the role of the ‘better mainstream’ publishers; linking the hyperlocal with the local; and see Impress’ News Literacy Report, which shows that building constructive relationships with audiences results in better trust;

Ideas for next steps

There was a specific suggestion around some work looking at the different approaches to participation and community involvement in journalism, the pros and cons of each, and the resources involved in getting them up and running and keeping them going. This could run alongside developing a better understanding of what journalism wants from communities.

In terms of helping the public understand the new models of journalism, could some kind of kitemark be awarded to publishers meeting such a definition (see, also, B Corp status)?

There was also interest in defining or understanding the new funding/sustainability models that support the new models of journalism; and in a definition of ‘hyperlocal’.

Useful links shared on the call

· Media Democracy Festival (London, Sat 25 March)

What’s next in this series?

There are four more follow-up calls relating to the working groups established at the Independent News Forum in Leeds. The next call is on creating a PR campaign for independent news publishers.

As well as the Zoom calls, we think it could be enriching to gather in-person at the Media Democracy Festival in London on Sat 25 March. You can sign up here.

Once all the follow-up calls have been held, we at PINF will hopefully have a better idea of where we can help on these cross-sector issues.

This is ‘open work’ – if something piques your interest or is particularly important to you – run with it! Let us know how/if PINF and others can help. If you’d like to connect with others on this call, you can share email addresses via this shared document.

Next calls


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