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August 24, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:32am

TBIJ launches People’s Newsroom to boost community journalism and improve diversity

By Freddy Mayhew

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has launched an ambitious project to address what it sees as UK journalism’s broken business model and chronic lack of diversity.

The People’s Newsroom Initiative aims to offer shared business resources and mentoring to marginalised groups that will enable them to start up their own community newsrooms in the UK.

It builds on TBIJ’s Bureau Local, a collaborative investigative journalism network with more than 760 journalists that was set up in March 2017 sharing public interest projects, data, and providing support.

“We’ve provided an editorial infrastructure over the last few years and now we need something that expands the business side of it,” Megan Lucero (pictured, middle), director of Bureau Local, said of the new initiative.

To achieve this, the Bureau wants to build a coalition of people and organisations who can offer support and services. It is asking for those who have worked to build community newsrooms to get in touch.

The Bureau plans to provide:

Earlier this month Press Gazette mapped some 400 local independent news titles, many of which have launched in the wake of major cutbacks from the big UK regional newspaper groups since 2008 (pictured).

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Lucero said in a blog post:

“The past four years have also laid bare the deep wounds in our industry. The business model for commercial – instead of public – gain is not working. Newsroom closures, journalist job losses and consolidation measures have hit the sector hard and our communities harder – most UK communities no longer have a daily or regional newspaper to serve them. 
“Journalism continues to lack diversity and plays a significant role in perpetuating and amplifying systemic racism and inequality.
“I’ll always be struck by a collaborator who told us: ‘I don’t see many people like me on the news, but I’m quite happy about that. I don’t trust the news trying to tell our stories’. Another said that traditional media happens in ‘a completely different world’ from the one in which they live. Journalism felt like part of the problem their community faces, rather than a potential solution.”

The initiative is a culmination of TBIJ’s efforts to tackle diversity issues within the news media, such as its panel discussion around “decolonising the news” that took place in September last year.

The aim is to shift away from seeking industry initiatives to promote diversity and put the power directly into community hands.

“We’re tired of talking about the problem,” Bureau Local director Megan Lucero said. “We’re really fortunate to be an organisation that does things and launches initiatives – and this is putting all of these things into action.

“It’s about investing in communities to be able to give them that support to launch newsrooms themselves.”

She added: “It’s a new roadway towards the future of journalism.”

Community newsrooms supported by the initiative could be anything from a Whatsapp service to podcasts and traditional print newspapers.

Those interested in offering their support for the People’s Newsroom Initiative can join a launch event on at 1pm on 9 September.

Picture: Rob Stothard/TBIJ

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