UCLan journalism academic joins prestigious selection panel of experts to help ensure the survival of local news

19 May 2020

Public Interest News Foundation launches COVID-19 Emergency Fund to support independent news publishers in the UK

An award-winning journalist and experienced researcher from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has been selected as one of the key decision makers in the fight to ensure the survival of local news post COVID-19.

Clare Cook, Senior Lecturer in Print and Online Journalism from the School of Journalism, Media and Performance, is one of 10 industry experts who will review grant applications to the new COVID-19 Emergency Fund, worth £60,000, for independent news publishers launched by Public Interest News Foundation (PINF).

"For many communities, independent publishers are the best or the only source of public-interest news. The Public Interest News Fund hopes not just to raise funds to help to support them but to promote ways to strengthen them and to help them survive."

Commenting on the initiative Clare said: “I am delighted to be part of this plan which aims to enable independent publishers to continue working through the COVID-19 crisis. This is the first, much-needed, emergency funding of its kind which only helps to highlight the make-or-break moment for the fragile independent news sector.”

While many organisations in the UK are facing financial challenges as a result of COVID-19, independent publishers are in a uniquely difficult position. They are working hard to report on the crisis, not only through traditional forms of print and digital journalism, but also by coordinating volunteering initiatives and home delivery services and providing a forum for citizens to engage with local authorities. Research indicates independent publishers are losing, on average, £2,000pcm in revenue. 

The goal of the Fund is to provide small but meaningful grants to help independent publishers keep working through the crisis and beyond. The Fund will award 20 grants of £3,000 each – a total of £60,000 – for independent publishers based in the UK.

Clare Cook
Clare Cook

A selection panel of experts from across the industry will review the applications and make grant decisions. The members of the selection panel are:

  • Dame Frances Cairncross, author of the Government review: A Sustainable Future for Journalism (Chair)
  • Clare Cook, Senior Lecturer, University of Central Lancashire
  • Hannah Storm, CEO, Ethical Journalism Network
  • Isabelle Roughol, Journalism Innovation & Leadership consultant and PINF trustee
  • Jo Adetunji, Deputy Editor, The Conversation and PINF Trustee
  • Marcus Ryder, Acting Chair, Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity, Birmingham City University
  • Meera Selva, Director, Journalist Fellowship Programme, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
  • Peter Harkness, Non-Executive Director, GlobalData
  • Phil Ramsey, Lecturer, Ulster University, and Chair of the MeCCSA Policy Network
  • Tom Sanderson, Deputy Director, the Centre for Investigative Journalism

Dame Frances Cairncross, Chair of the Selection Panel, said: “The threat to the survival of small independent news publishers is one of the most worrying consequences of the pandemic. For many communities, independent publishers are the best or the only source of public-interest news. The Public Interest News Fund hopes not just to raise funds to help to support them but to promote ways to strengthen them and to help them survive.”

The PINF COVID-19 Emergency Fund has been launched with the support of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT), which has donated £60,000, all of which PINF is passing on to independent publishers in the form of small grants.

Grants will be administered by the charity Internews, which is generously providing support for the Fund at no cost. “We’re delighted to be part of this fantastic initiative. Independent news is needed now, more than ever and we must ensure its survival”, said Jodie Ginsberg, Internews CEO. Internews established a global Rapid Response Fund in March to support small, local news organisations worldwide survive in the face of COVID-19.

PINF welcomes donations towards the COVID-19 Emergency Fund and continues to raise awareness for the plights of independent publishers through the Save Independent News campaign, in partnership with the Independent Community News Network (ICNN).

Emma Meese, Director of ICNN, said: ‘Our survey of independent publishers showed that 95% had not received any money at all from the UK Government. This Fund will be a lifeline for many independent publishers, who have otherwise slipped through the net. It has been heartbreaking to hear from brilliant, dedicated and trustworthy independent journalists who are desperate to keep serving their communities, but fear for the future of their titles. Investing in this sector is essential to ensure a continued plurality of voice in the UK, and avoid hundreds more news black holes which would leave an even bigger democratic deficit than we already have.’

Applications and enquiries

Applications to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund will open on Tuesday 26 May and close on 2 June. Details of the eligibility criteria and how to apply will be published on www.publicinterestnews.org.uk/funding in due course.

Enquiries about the PINF Emergency Fund from applicants can be directed to contact@publicinterestnews.org.uk

Applicants are also encouraged to subscribe to the PINF newsletter to receive updates on the Fund and other PINF activities.