I’ve written before about why journalism has become a more widely accepted strategic area for US philanthropy. The UK sector has some of those building blocks in place: charitable status is emerging as an option, research on the independent news sector and news deserts in the UK is growing, there’s growing recognition from the business and investment community of the need for quality local journalism, and community foundations and other place-based funders are beginning to exhibit concern about the decline of truly independent and local journalism. Even national media understand what will happen if local media die.
The Lords Select Committee has announced a consultation into the Future of News in the UK - its last report called (as yet unheeded) for the revival of the Future News Fund that DCMS axed after one round, and just £1m of funding, rather than the £10m p.a. that Dame Frances Cairncross called for in her landmark inquiry for the UK government. (And it’s not unique to the UK - I’m writing this from Portugal, where a similar crisis has caused the President to issue a call for political parties to agree a deal to ‘save journalism’ ahead of the coming elections.)
But while it is a growing part of the philanthropy and social investment agenda, the unequal access that citizens living in different parts of the UK have to quality local information and media isn’t part of the political or policy discussion - it’s not a part of Thriving Places or inequality indices, wellbeing analyses, or assessments of the digital divide. And this leaves journalism out of wider conversations about the quality of our places, about the wellbeing of our people.
We know, however, that our communities can’t wait any longer, so we’re working to build Local News Funds to help get support into local news and information ecosystems across the UK, starting in Newry, Northern Ireland - and we welcome conversations with anyone interested in doing the same, whether in Newry or elsewhere around the country.
Visit the Local News Fund collaboration opportunity on the Funders Collaborative Hub