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February 18, 2020updated 07 Nov 2023 5:49am

Tortoise, Press Pad and Bristol Cable among 17 journalism innovation fund recipients

By Freddy Mayhew

Tortoise, the Bristol Cable and Press Pad are among recipients of grant funding as part of a £2m innovation fund for public interest journalism.

Regional news projects make up a number of the pilot fund recipients, 17 of whom have been named so far with another two yet to be announced.

Also on the list of recipients is WT Social, the social network for news from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

There were a total of 178 applications to the Future News Fund after it opened to bids in November last year, including from local and national newsrooms and technology start-ups.

Scroll down for full list of fund recipients

The News Media Association, which represents UK newspapers, said the fund had “bypassed” the local news industry, which received no grants, despite it reaching a combined 40.6m people a month.

“Local news publishers employ the vast majority of local journalists in the UK and are critical to the sustainability of local public interest news,” the body said.

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“But many of these established titles need some short-term support, over the next two to three years, to help them bridge the gap to a more sustainable future.”

The fund is paid for by the Government and overseen by Nesta, a charity that supports innovation in a number of sectors. About £856,000 of the £2m pot has been paid out so far.

An innovation fund was one of nine recommendations made by the Cairncross Review into the sustainability of the UK news industry in the digital age, which published its report in February last year.

Nesta said it will share lessons learned from the fund to help government and the media industry find “pathways to a future” where high-quality public interest news is readily accessible.

Valerie Mocker, director of the Future News Fund at Nesta, said: “Public interest news is such a vital part of our democratic immune system, so it’s important we ensure it is fit for the future and for everyone.

“The innovators we are funding are trying to transform the system, challenging how we engage audiences in the news process and trying out new models for financial sustainability.

“We are excited to work closely with the innovators to develop their ideas and importantly, to share these learnings with the wider news sector. This pilot is only a first step but an important one towards reviving public interest news for everyone across the country.”

The first grant-funded projects will run for five months from today.

The 17 Future News Fund recipients named so far comprise:

#ThisMuchIKnow (£60,000)

A global news community aiming to help people engage in healthier conversations around public interest news. Plans to use funding to expand outside of London and improve its app.

Axate (£70,000)

A digital wallet that allows users to pay to access news websites signed up to the scheme, which includes Popbitch, The Cricketer and more than a dozen local papers. Plans to use funding to develop its product to help any local publisher use its payment model and to develop reader revenues.

Black Ballad (£70,000)

A subscription-first media brand aimed at black women. Aims to produce content, events and investigative data journalism to uncover stories of black women outside London. Wants to tackle lack of diversity in the media and combat loss of black voices through local news decline.

The Bristol Cable (£41,143)

A co-operative news outlet based in Bristol. Plans to use funds to test “open newsrooms”, relocating their media team into the communities they want to serve to exchange ideas with people face-to-face, generating public interest reporting, building trust and engagement in the process. Will also trial ways for its 2,100 members to digitally collaborate with journalists in their own areas of expertise and lived experiences.

Entale  (£50,000)

A podcasting app that uses a combination of AI and curation to showcase relevant contextual content to listeners. Plans to use funding to explore alternative distribution and monetisation mechanisms for public interest podcasting, which currently relies on ads or sponsorship but often lacks the audience size or topic to achieve it.

Glimpse Protocol  (£50,000)

An ethical and private advertising platform that aims to guarantee the privacy of consumers’ personal data by using cutting-edge cryptographic techniques while improving revenue to publishers.

Hashtag Our Stories (£40,000)

Builds augmented reality video authoring tools to help citizen journalists automatically generate factual stories. Also aims to help create content that brings people together by focusing on fighting hate crimes in the UK. Has trained more than 3,000 storytellers in 140 countries.

The Manchester Meteor (£25,000)

A non-profit co-operative news outfit based in Manchester. Plans to use funding to expand membership through innovative communication strategies linked to a diverse programme of outreach events.

Media Trust (£65,000)

A charity working to give marginalised groups a stronger voice. Plans to use funding to tackle the under-representation of people with disabilities in the news by working with BBC to extend the corporation’s 50:50 project to people with disabilities. Will create a disabled experts directory, successful case studies, media training for disabled experts and training for journalists on approaching and interviewing disabled people.

My Society (£70,000)

The WhatDoTheyKnow project aims to enable journalists, campaigners and members of the public to work together on public interest stories driven by Freedom of Information requests. Led by My Society, the creators of the UK’s online FOI service, the project will allow journalists to collaborate on FOI investigations with citizen investigators to make requests and turn the responses into a story.

New Internationalist (£30,000)

The Bridging The Gap project will see New Internationalist work with its reader-owners to deliver workshops with communities in Newcastle who campaign for cleaner air, in collaboration with On Our Radar. This community-led editorial will feed into the May/June magazine, which will be launched at an event in Newcastle that will connect campaigners to those affected by the same issue worldwide. Will also test new models to reach undeserved communities, such as sponsoring a subscription.

Open Democracy (£69,800)

The Open Registers of Interest project aims to unlock hidden public interest stories that are locked up in politicians’ registers of interests. They will work with stakeholders in the media and the public sector to establish an open data standard for publishing Registers of Interest. They will also prototype an online service that will demonstrate the potential of this data to inform the public debate, support public interest investigations and explore the scope for revenue raising services that could sustain the service into the future.

Our Economy  (£45,000)

The Our Economy West Midlands project will see charity Economy partner with both local media organisations and community groups to develop a way of talking about the economy that is engaging, reflective of people’s lived experience and which makes everyone, particularly those furthest from power, feel part of the conversation about how the economy should be run.

Press Pad (£40,000)

A scheme matching media interns, who are typically unpaid, with senior journalists who have a spare room for affordable hosting and mentorship. It provides a way into the industry for people from diverse backgrounds who can’t afford to get their foot in the door. They believe by tackling the lack of socio-economic and class diversity they can help create a more representative media that serves the interests of everyone.

Shout Out UK (£30,000)

The Media Literacy For All project aims to bridge the gap between local journalists and young people by offering a comprehensive Media Literacy programme for 14 to 19 -year-olds. The curriculum will be delivered via an online e-learning platform and aims to help young people become critical thinkers about the information they consume and learn how to stay safe online. After completing the course, students will connect with a local journalist via our the platform’s Digital Newsroom feature. They will utilise the Digital Newsroom to produce high-quality articles, which will be reviewed by the local journalist, who will provide the students with constructive feedback about their writing. The best articles will then be published by the local publication and on the Shout Out UK website.

Tortoise (£50,000)

Slow news outlet Tortoise will trial their unique membership model for news, where members actively contribute to the stories they write through live discussion events called “Thinkins”, in partnership with local newsrooms Grimsby Live, Plymouth Live and East Marsh United. The idea is to pave the way towards a sustainable future for local journalism, based on real-life conversations in communities.

WT Social (£50,000)

An emerging social network creating a new model to engage the public in the production of public interest news, created by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. WT Social offers a collaborative online public space with community control. The team hope to build a sustainable platform where quality news is shared and produced. Plans to use funding to support journalists and underserved communities to work collaboratively on public interest news.

Picture: Pixabay

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