From PressPad's #DiversifyTheMedia event: (from left to right) James Ball (Global Editor, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism), Olivia Crellin, Laura Garcia, Claudia-Liza Armah, Alfie Tobutt, Nicola Slawson, Shingi Mararike (Sunday Times)

Credit: PressPad

Social enterprise PressPad has launched a £15k crowdfunding campaign to continue its mission of supporting journalism students and diversifying the media industry.

Few news organisations have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic like PressPad, the company known best for housing work experience students who cannot afford to live in London at the homes of industry professionals.

But putting two new people under one roof is impossible when there are a national lockdown and social distancing measures in place.

PressPad was also planning to raise £120k this year through 12 partnerships with news organisations sponsoring its soft launch. This would see the partners become early adopters of PressPad initiatives and receive consultation on hiring and work experience practices.

Three of the agreed deals with Metro, News UK and the Financial Times should still materialise, but conversations with eight other organisations like Bloomberg and Sky News stopped as those companies sought to re-prioritise their funds during covid-19. The one remaining deal fell through for reasons not connected to covid-19. This means PressPad is £80k behind its financial forecast.

A £40k injection from the Future News Fund in February this year came at the perfect time to keep the business afloat. Having already crowdfunded £45k last year as well, the decision to go back to their supporters for money was a painful one.

"Nobody wants to ask for money and with the ethos of PressPad as a social enterprise, the idea of going back to the industry with a begging bowl is not particularly empowering or sustainable," says PressPad CEO Olivia Crellin.

"But with covid-19, we exhausted all the funds we had to provide as much as we can during lockdown."

From a host mentorship service to a masterclass provider

Since lockdown, PressPad provided a series of free online webinars, Q&As, one-to-one career clinics and remote speed networking events, called #PressPadRemote. In three and a half months, nearly 8,000 young journalists tuned in. The Monday CV clinics proved so popular that the first three events each registered 16 back-to-back 30-minute slots.

Importantly, one third of PressPad Remote attendees considered themselves working class, 28 per cent identified as BAME and 98 per cent did not have parents or close connections who worked in the media.

Combined, Crellin suggested that the numbers show the demand for support at this difficult time, as graduate jobs and work experience have proved scarce.

"With all of those opportunities cancelled, there are large numbers of young people within journalism who are totally at a loose end and struggling to understand how they move forward with their career,” Crellin adds.

Plans for longterm sustainability

The £15k crowdfunding target will go towards hiring two younger programme managers, replacing freelancer Nicola Slawson who recently moved on from the company. The new hires will also ensure that the remote sessions will run for another season.

If successful, it might be eligible for an extra £15k in match-funding through the Trust for London and Crowdfund Lambeth.

Crellin confirmed that the host mentoring service will resume as the primary revenue source for the business post-pandemic. Previous plans to implement a subscription service have been put on hold.

In the meantime, she has also applied to register PressPad as a charitable foundation. This would be separate to the host mentoring service which will remain a for-profit business. This is because PressPad sees itself as a service to news organisations to find the best diverse talent, which is not defined as a charitable activity.

But having a charitable foundation would allow the organisation to receive grants strictly open to charities and support parts of its work - like the free remote sessions - which are charitable in nature, or allow it to provide bursaries to students.

Also, organisations such as Metro also cannot donate to non-charitable sources under its corporate social responsibility, so that agreement in particular is pending upon the acceptance of the charitable application.

"The idea is to keep the host mentorship as something which can scale and be the crazy but functional idea that grows naturally. But we don’t want to turn away any money that people are willing to give us just because we’re not a charity - so for us, this would be the best of both worlds and is often what happens in social enterprises and tech-for-social-good companies," she concludes.

Join us at our next digital journalism conference Newsrewired from 1 December 2020 for four days of industry expert panel discussions and workshops. Visit for event agenda and tickets.

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