The Independent Community News Network (ICNN), the representative body for the hyperlocal news sector and community journalists, launched yesterday evening (11 January) in Cardiff.
ICNN aims to support and champion sustainable forms of digital and print journalism on a local level, providing help and guidance such as specialist legal support to its members.
The network has been active since the summer and already has 70 members, but this week’s official launch means ICNN is now able to consult with its advisory board to map its future and choose the issues to focus on, explained Emma Meese, director of ICNN, in an email to Journalism.co.uk.
As well as offering access to legal support, the network is currently in discussions with the National Union of Journalists to gain access to press cards for its eligible members, and is exploring the readership and combined reach of its membership.
"We are aware that we have many challenges ahead of us if we are to get the community and hyperlocal news sector on a level playing field with the more traditional local news sector," Meese said.
"A number of legislations aimed at local news publishers, such as publishing statutory notices, were created when the local news landscape looked completely different.
"If we are to succeed in getting fair opportunities for our members we will have to look at these issues and fight for fair access for all."
The hyperlocal and community news sector is often misunderstood by those outside it, such as local authorities or even established newsrooms, so part of ICNN’s work also includes advocating that community journalism can also be professional, Meese explained in a recent Journalism.co.uk podcast.
ICNN’s current members include The Bristol Cable, The Ferret, The Hackney Citizen, Caerphilly Observer, Shetland News, the Lincolnite, and Wrexham.com among others.
As well as Meese, the network has two other members of staff, working directly with members: Matt Abbott, communications and project officer, and Professor Justin Lewis, chairman.
"We think we can achieve things together that we couldn’t achieve individually," Lewis said at the launch at the National Assembly for Wales Senedd building yesterday.
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