Blog

Keeping journalism afloat during COVID-19

With the costs of independent journalism escalating, business models disappearing, and advertising moving online, public interest media needs a long-term funding solution. That’s why we’ve been advocating for an International Fund for Public Interest Media (IFPIM), which we believe would increase institutional support to the sector in a sustainable way. 

But over the last few months, a more urgent challenge has emerged: keeping journalism afloat amidst the economic fallout from the pandemic.

The Reuters Institute estimated that news organisations worldwide will experience more than $20 billion in revenue losses related to COVID-19. Without setting aside the long-term challenges, the field had to take action to keep these organisations intact and allow journalists to continue their reporting through this critical time.

These initiatives provide important and immediate help to the sector: after all, if we don't tackle the current crisis, independent media organisations will be decimated.

A number of initiatives were quickly launched to respond to this need: 

  • International Women’s Media Foundation's Journalism Relief Fund: Our partner IWMF rapidly recognised that the pandemic would mean cancelled assignments, lost income, and financial hardship for journalists, particularly freelancers. Within just one month, the Journalism Relief Fund provided over $220,000 to more than 150 women-identifying journalists in need, with the most common requests being for assistance with essentials like groceries, housing costs, and medical expenses. Luminate has given IWMF an additional $200,000 for this fund to allow them to directly help more journalists.

  • Internews’ Rapid Response Fund: Luminate was pleased to contribute $500,000 to this fund, which gives local media such as community radio stations and online news outlets access to emergency funding so they can continue to operate in increasingly dire economic conditions. The fund has already provided grants to 25 small, local news organisations in more than 20 countries, and it will soon announce additional recipients.

  • Independent News Emergency Relief Coordination (INERC): Given the numerous “pandemic response” funds that have emerged this year, Luminate worked in partnership with Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) at the University of Oxford to help establish the INERC. This is an initiative aimed at helping funders willing and able to provide significant financial support for independent news media to better understand where the need is greatest and to coordinate their efforts to make the biggest difference in this difficult moment. 

These initiatives provide important and immediate help to the sector: after all, if we don't tackle the current crisis, independent media organisations will be decimated. But as BBC Media Action’s James Deane and I recently argued in Devex, even if we can limit the collapse of media outlets in the short term, the impact of the pandemic on public interest news will be long-lasting. 

To tackle these long term issues in the media, a global effort with substantial financial capital is needed until new, sustainable business models can be tested and scaled up. We’re more convinced than ever that an International Fund for Public Interest Media can be the solution. If you’d like to learn about the fund, please do get in touch with BBC Media Action’s James Deane.