Credit: Matt Nelson on Unsplash

UK collaborative, investigative network Bureau Local is building a programme to help fix the lack of representation and trust in local journalism.

The People’s Newsroom Initiative will bring together individuals and organisations who can support new community journalism outlets. That can range from helping them designing and building new projects to providing legal and tech assistance.

Although the Bureau has a long track record in helping local newsrooms thrive, director Megan Lucero says there are not enough public bodies - like funds, investors or institutions - designed to help communities invest in, own and run local, independent media.

Some news organisations have proved that the cooperative model can work but there is nothing coordinated to make this accessible and replicable to others. Bureau Local's scheme is aiming to change the state of play.

"The commercial forces dominating much of the current local news ecosystem are not supporting the potential for the ownership of newsrooms to be expanded and diversified," she says.

"We've been collaborating and listening to community groups for years now and their message is loud and clear: they want to tell their own stories and run their own media platforms."

Rather than being owned by big publishing houses, these new community news organisations may end up with different ownerships models, like cooperatives, charities or non-profits. What matters, explains Lucero, is that the ownership and journalism models match the needs of the community they are created by, and for, and it is this process that the Bureau is supporting.

One of the most pervasive problems in local journalism is the lack of diversity. As a result, many newsrooms either do not serve communities they are not connected to or cover them in a way that is downright harmful. Voices calling for a better representation are growing stronger and The People’s Newsrooms will focus on supporting outlets that serve communities traditionally let down by the existing media brands.

The initiative comes amid a surge of support for local newsrooms, from BBC Local News Partnership to Substack and Facebook throwing money at self-publishing local journalists to create premium newsletters. So what does The People’s Newsroom bring to the game?

"This is a programme focused on diversifying and expanding media ownership and plurality, with a particular focus on supporting community newsroom leaders traditionally marginalised by the media," says Lucero.

"While tech platforms like Substack and Facebook are encouraging and supporting journalists to increase the use of and investment in their platforms, we're investing in communities and local leaders and working from there to find the right platforms, business models and operating models for them.

"We are not franchising our model, seeking commercial gain or applying a top-down approach but instead, are sharing power and building a long-lasting infrastructure that lowers the barriers to entry and makes it accessible for anyone to build and run a newsroom.

"This comes from a public interest approach, ensuring stories are told from the perspectives of communities rather than the status quo or powers at large. It is a direct response to our call to diversify the media and build better journalism that truly serves communities."

This project is being run out of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and therefore is supported by its core funding. The Bureau has also partnered with Lankelly Chase and Clwstwr to research, design and build a new community journalism project with EYST in Swansea.

If you would like to support the programme you can join the coalition and come to the launch event on 9 September 2021.

Are you looking to bring some fresh ideas to your local newsroom? Apply for our Newsroom Innovation Mentorship Programme now.

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