Engaged journalism Insight

“News for All” – Week Note 6

On job cuts & awards

I’m on my way to Sheffield today to work on The People’s Newsroom project – something different, but intrinsically related to our News for All work. This was an initiative that my friend, Megan Lucero and I started whilst working at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. You can read about what we did there on the project page, but the truth is that its totally community-driven focus didn’t really work in a legacy journalism institution. We were very lucky to be given the opportunity to start the project there, but I always knew that it would eventually have to live in a different structure. We’re delighted it now comes under the umbrella of Opus Independents whose tagline is “Creating for Common Good”.

More on that next week, but the demands of travel mean this week’s note is going to be a couple of bullet points. Not necessarily a weakness, because I’m finding that shorter is often clearer. Sometimes just stating the idea is enough – you don’t have to bash people over the head with the explanation.

  • You will probably have seen news of the latest round of redundancies at Reach. In my work at Bureau Local, I spoke to and worked with local journalists all over the country, ran our Love Local News campaign and helped curate a network that brought people together to share knowledge, skills and advice. I’m always inspired by the incredible work local journalists do, under increasingly difficult circumstances. Much of the reaction to the Reach announcement has focused on the importance of local journalism, but in many ways I think we’re making a category mistake. This isn’t a problem with journalism, it’s a problem with capitalism. What we’re saying when we talk about the importance of local journalism is that we regard it as a public good. However, where we’ve made the category mistake is by putting a public good in the hands of private companies. It’s worth being completely clear here. Reach isn’t losing money. Print revenues there have actually declined less than digital revenues. The job cuts aren’t being made to save the business, they’re being made so that Reach can make more money. Let’s be clear again here. That is entirely rational behaviour on Reach’s part, given the economic system we live in. But they, and other major publishers working on the same business model, can’t have it every way. They have benefitted, and continue to benefit, from millions of pounds of government subsidies – through things like statutory public notices and the disingenuously named “All In, All Together” campaign during the pandemic. The Public Interest News Foundation has been across this in detail, and their submission to the UK Covid-19 enquiry is well worth reading. To reiterate – if you want to work in a short-term capitalist manner, you can’t have it both ways. If we think local journalism is a public good, then the money that is being funnelled to Reach, Newsquest etc could be better spent on other journalism organisations – existing or new entrants – much more committed to a diverse, sustainable local news ecosystem and secure, long-term work for journalists.


  • Some of the brilliant local (national really) journalists I work with were celebrated at the Wales Media Awards this week. I was there in my Inclusive Journalism Cymru role, at the invitation of Creative Wales – the Welsh Government Agency which supports the creative industries, including journalism, here. I’m really conflicted about awards ceremonies like this one though, because I think they often incentivise entirely the wrong things. For instance, journalism is a collaborative, connected enterprise characterised by teamwork. Awards overwhelmingly recognise individuals. In the broadcast categories, it’s essentially impossible to have your work recognised if you’re not on screen or on air. The reality is though that a lot of great work, particularly in investigations, happens in the background. There are also significant systemic barriers to being on screen or on air, which need to be acknowledged. We should do better at reflecting that. It’s also important to point out, as I’ve already done to the organisers and to Creative Wales, that the setting can feel incredibly uncomfortable for people who don’t come from traditional journalism backgrounds. To put it bluntly, on the previous occasion I attended the awards, the only people of colour there were me and the waiting staff.


  • If we want to have awards, then I think there are things we can do to incentivise the kinds of things we actually want to encourage. You could have “Team of the Year”, and you could ask in the entry process about the diversity of the teams involved in the submissions. You could easily have awards which recognised those who aren’t on screen or on air – either through their own choice or because they’re not given the opportunity. In a world where long-term sustainability is the key question facing the industry, I was particularly disappointed that there was no “Innovation” category. You could also go even further, by recognising a journalism “Business” of the year – where experiments in engagement and revenue are encouraged and supported. Broadly, in a sector and a country where we’re lagging a long way behind on collaboration, innovation and inclusion, there is nothing to incentivise the change we so desperately need. 

Photo by Ananya Mittal on Unsplash

Has this sparked ideas for you?

Do get in touch if you want to pick up on any of these thoughts.