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On a distributed support network for news providers: Notes from PINF's Zoom call

In the fifth and final blogpost on themes emerging from last year’s Indie News Forum, Joe Mitchell, PINF’s head of impact, writes up the notes from the call on a distributed support network for news providers.

Previously on PINF-blog:

  • We organised the Independent News Forum in Leeds in October 2022, a day of conversations where participants chose what they wanted to talk about and work on

  • Five themes emerged from that day and PINF subsequently arranged a Zoom call on each of those five themes. We’ve now written up the notes from the calls on: new models of journalism, a PR campaign for indie news, measuring and communicating evidence of impact, and community engagement.

  • This last post is on the theme of better networking in the sector.

There were two main areas of discussion in the call – what do newsrooms or publishers want in terms of support, and how might that best be provided? In the ‘what’ category, we heard about ideas for:

  • Affordable or pro bono legal advice, and affordable legal insurance;

  • Space to share knowledge and solve problems together;

  • Peer support;

  • A buddying system (perhaps especially for new entrants);

  • Events for ‘conscious connection’ in physical spaces, as well as online events;

  • Admin/governance support;

  • Support to grow and retain members, or innovation around revenue streams;

  • Dedicated ‘sprints’ on specific objectives;

  • A shared platform for learning (where each contributes to and borrows from the resource).

In the ‘how’ category, there were questions and suggestions around:

  • The model or structure used for such a support network: should it be a centralised body, on-call for the network’s needs, or is it space for more informal advice and expertise sharing?

  • The ideal of the network ‘owning itself’ – such as a cooperative model, where the costs are borne by the collective, or if it starts in a hosted form, then it eventually spins out of the host;

  • The potential role for a dedicated community administrator or organiser to help guide or sherpa any network towards its ultimate aim (maybe starting with identifying that aim in the first place);

  • The need for a set of shared values that binds the network, along with clear commitments to achieving tasks by deadlines, an empowering culture, a culture of openness, a focus on the future, and regular re-introductions for inclusivity;

  • Other models that we could borrow from, such as the example from a group of European independent newspapers – the ‘Reference circle’ – which provides a ‘sharing circle’ for ongoing conversations;

  • The risks to this kind of work, which include not spending enough time with each other on concrete challenges, or losing momentum after meetups;

  • The need to serve different organisational ‘life-stages’ – for example, a runway for new entrants that might include the basics of accounting, bookkeeping, legal as written about by the new entrant’s future peers...

  • ...But noting the risk that toolkits/guides never get read, and that events are a better learning and sharing opportunity, because they break participants out of the day-to-day grind;

  • An approach of starting small, testing out what the network needs, and growing over time as the value becomes more apparent and worth funding.

The next steps suggested from the call were around taking forward the idea of a community organiser – clarifying the role, the theory of change or outcomes that would be sought, and who might best host such a role.

This was the last in the series of calls following the Leeds forum. At PINF, we’ll be putting our heads together – along with those who share similar interests – to work out how we can take any or all of these themes forward.

We’ll be blogging more on this in the next few weeks. For updates, make sure you’re signed up to the newsletter.


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