Jonathan Heawood and a few of our friends in the UK's indie news sector reflect on 2023 and look ahead to exciting plans for 2024. Check out last week's newsletter to get some more PINF highlights.
As another year draws to a close, we find ourselves … reading hundreds of newsletters about another year drawing to a close. If these end-of-year messages are anything to go by, everyone had an absolutely fantastic time in 2023 and is looking forward to an even more marvellous year in 2024.
Of course, many people in the UK and around the world had a very difficult time this year and are afraid of what next year will bring, and I want to remember and honour them as well. This has been a particularly tough year for journalists because of violent conflict and restrictions on free speech; but without their reporting, we wouldn’t know what’s really going on around the world or in our communities.
So, at PINF, we’re glad to support journalists, whether they bring news of sorrow or joy. Our year was all about working closely with independent news providers across the UK, helping them to serve their communities.
Below, we have gathered some voices from across the sector to share their memories of the year and plans for 2024.
My own highlights of 2023 included (in no particular order):
The Independent News Forum, where we gathered indie news providers in Bristol to talk about their challenges, opportunities and dreams.
Our partnership with Watershed Investigations, through which we are supporting their hard-hitting environmental journalism.
The Community Health reporter project, where we brought together health professionals and news providers to imagine a new form of health journalism.
The appointment of our first Campaign Organisers, who are developing our thriving network of indie news providers across the UK.
The Index of Independent News Publishing, now in its third year, which shows indie news providers growing in impact, but continuing to face challenges.
Our Local News Map, which reveals how every part of the UK is served with local news – and proves that the poorest places are least likely to be covered.
The disinformation research we have launched with Demos, which explores how local news providers are covering the debate about low traffic neighbourhoods.
The News for All campaign, where we are working with policymakers to level the playing field between big tech platforms and indie news providers.
The report by Dr. Debs Grayson on participatory grantmaking in journalism which we co-published with the Media Reform Coalition.
Most of all, I’ve enjoyed working with the growing PINF team of staff, freelancers and trustees, and with our extraordinary network of indie news providers. Here are just a few of their contributions (in alphabetical order, this time).
Tom Chivers, Media Reform Coalition:
In October 2023 the Media Reform Coalition published the latest edition of our flagship ‘Who Owns the UK Media?’ report, which highlighted the dangerous levels of concentrated media ownership across the UK’s local, national and online media.
Looking to next year, we’re excited to host the 2024 Media Democracy Festival at Sheffield University on Saturday 16th March. The Festival will bring together independent media organisations, activists, researchers and policymakers to debate the big issues on public interest journalism, media policy, social justice and democracy – look out for more details soon!
One thing I am proud of from 2023 was bringing together such a diverse and inspiring range of publishers from all around Scotland to build a supportive network and launch the Scottish Beacon collaborative.
One thing I'm excited about for 2024 is launching a new Greater Govanhill podcast in February that tells the story of our diverse neighbourhood through the objects local residents hold dear.
I’ve been happy this year to have supported and trained young people within the human rights space for EachOther, especially at a time where our rights continue to face sustained attacks in the UK.
For 2024, I’m excited to see more Independent media outlets forming - going into its second year is the Great Central Gazette which has exciting plans for the year!
Sarah Hartley, The Northern Eco:
One thing from 2023: Launched The Northern Eco - a place for actionable, environmental news from the north of England which has been an exciting rollercoaster of a journey back to public interest news after a break of some years.
Excited about for 2024: Getting stuck into developing new ways for readers to get involved in the issues they care about - the environment, nature and climate have never been more important and there's a huge appetite for change out there.
Jaldeep Katwala, PINF:
In 2023, I'm very proud of the Forum in Bristol. Great to hit the groud running with PINF and make so many new friends.
For 2024 I'm looking forward to working with diverse media to bring them into the PINF family.
Best bit about 2023: The enthusiasm colleagues have for our work and respect we have for each other's skills and experiences within a supportive environment.
What I'm looking forward to in 2024: Engaging with the growing group of publishers regionally and nationally to advance the sector as a whole. Also, putting pathways in place for people from under represented communities to thrive.
Lexie Kirkconnell-Kawana, Impress: The Independent Monitor of the Press
Launching our new Standards Code in February 2023 marked a big moment in our history and the end of months of consultation with members, industry stakeholders and the public. The final product saw us take a tougher stance on discrimination and introduce the first guidance from a regulator on artificial intelligence as we look to ensure the media works in the public interest now and in the future.
Looking ahead to 2024, it is sure to be another hectic 12 months, but there is plenty to look forward to, not least the Impress Tour. We will be heading around the country to meet with our wonderful members, listening to their thoughts on the industry and carrying out focus groups for the exciting plans we have in the offing. So, keep your eyes peeled!
Dr. Rachel Morris, Bylines Cymru:
I’m most proud of having launched Bylines Cymru on 1 March 2023, giving a global voice to nearly 200 citizen journalists in, of, or in love with Wales via over 300 articles by the end of the year.
For 2024, I’m most excited about building on this: steadily growing our wealth of writers and readers, strengthening our team of volunteers, launching a podcast, and doing our bit to fill the diversity and democracy gaps in Welsh public interest journalism.
Una Murphy, VIEWdigital:
During 2023, we got politicians, journalists and community activists in Northern Ireland talking about independent journalism.
In 2024, we will continue to provide community journalism on important social issues in Northern Ireland.
Columbia O'Hare, Newry.ie
In 2023 I had the privilege of being invited to speak by PINF at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia. It was great to meet up with so many people from the UK both in the industry and lobbying for the sector. The event was totally inspirational and one I would recommend to anyone.
This year our most popular stories on Newry.ie were features about local people and small local businesses. In 2024 we plan to source more revenue/ funding to enable us to expand on these and other site offerings.
Mel Page, Drawing Board Productions CIC
We are most excited to have launched new Post publications in 2023 that now provide coverage across the whole of Stockport and South Manchester.
For 2024 we're excited to grow our coverage into North Manchester too!
Brian Pelan, VIEWdigital
As the editor of the social affairs publication VIEW, I am especially proud of our latest issue of the magazine which looked at the Cost of Living crisis in the UK.
I am excited for 2024 when we will strive to continue to highlight the social affairs stories that matter.
Wendy Robertson, The Bridge
Pleased with and proud of launching The Bridge, a free monthly hyperlocal newsletter in February 2023.
In 2024, excited about securing The Bridge's future with the help & advice of a new group of local supporters along with the PINF family.
Our sincere thanks to all who contributed to this blog.
Jonathan Heawood is Executive Director at PINF.