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Wednesday 17 February 2021

UCLan journalism sustainability experts lead fight for independent news sector survival

New survey will ‘put paid to myths’ about independent news publishers

University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) experts in journalism sustainability are leading the fight to shape future policy and grant making for the independent news sector.

Clare Cook, a senior journalism lecturer, and statistical analysis expert Dr Coral Milburn-Curtis will work with the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF) to conduct its first comprehensive survey of the independent news sector in the UK.

The survey will provide a unique insight into the sector by revealing publishers’ business models, editorial priorities, audience characteristics and more. This information will help funders and policymakers to address the challenges facing public interest news in the digital age.

Clare is one of the leading experts in business viability of the independent news sector. The co-founder of the Media Innovation Studio, a multi-disciplinary research hub based at UCLan, Clare has co-authored a paper to support hyperlocal media and is also innovating new revenue streams for hyperlocals with a project called Value My News. Her work has also been supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport through the Future News Fund.

"We urgently need to understand life in the longtail. This is not the space of corporate media giants. Instead, it is the independent journalism sector – who are often left out of key policy and grant making – that we need to understand in order to fight for their survival."

Clare Cook, senior journalism lecturer and co-founder of the UCLan Media Innovation Studio

She said: “We urgently need to understand life in the longtail. This is not the space of corporate media giants. Instead, it is the independent journalism sector – who are often left out of key policy and grant making – that we need to understand in order to fight for their survival.

“The PINF Index is an exciting opportunity to learn more about the independent news sector. This should help funders and policymakers to see how they can best help this sector to survive and thrive.”

The PINF Index is open to professional providers of public interest news that produce primarily text-based reporting. They may provide local news, investigative journalism or specialist reporting. Some providers may serve communities of identity or provide another form of public interest news. They may operate in print or online. In 2021, the Index will be limited to publishers with annual turnover below £2m, but this scope may be revised in future years.

Jonathan Heawood, Executive Director of PINF, said: “Independent publishers are telling stories that would otherwise go unreported and serving audiences that would otherwise be ignored. However, some policymakers still seem to think that independent publishers are just ‘bloggers’ or ‘hobbyists’. The PINF Index should put paid to these myths, and reveal the true value of this dynamic but fragile sector.”

"Independent publishers are telling stories that would otherwise go unreported and serving audiences that would otherwise be ignored. However, some policymakers still seem to think that independent publishers are just ‘bloggers’ or ‘hobbyists’. The PINF Index should put paid to these myths, and reveal the true value of this dynamic but fragile sector."

Jonathan Heawood, Executive Director of the Public Interest News Foundation.

The PINF Index is based on the INN Index, created by the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), which has been running annually in the United States since 2017. The INN Index has demonstrated the valuable role played by independent news publishers in the US. It has helped to increase funders’ interest in the sector, and to identify new models of public interest news.

Sue Cross, Executive Director of INN, said: “The INN Index has demonstrated the valuable role played by nonprofit news publishers in the US, and has helped to attract millions of dollars of grant funding into the sector. We hope that the PINF Index will do the same for our friends and colleagues in the UK.”

PINF is partnering with organisations like IMPRESS and ICNN to reach key journalistic communities and publishers in this space. Detailed eligibility criteria are set out on the PINF website. Publishers who want to participate in the survey can do so online. The survey will close on 17 March and findings are expected to be published in May.