IJF19: Can thematic newsrooms help fill the public-interest gap?


For a long time, donors and civil society have tried different methods to persuade or incentivise journalists to cover public-interest stories they cared about - through training, handbooks, pitching stories, offering fellowships, or direct funding. Some went further by setting up investigative organisations to provide evidence for journalists, or integrated journalists and journalistic framing into their work.

However, over the past 3 or 4 years, a few have changed track and are investing directly in funding, launching, or incubating thematic units staffed and run by journalists, and producing independent investigative journalism on these very public-interest issues. Not everyone is comfortable with what they see as a blurring of formerly clear boundaries between journalism and advocacy, while others see this as a natural part of the field.

A panel at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia discussed this trend with three experts:

  • Annie Kelly, editor of Modern-day Slavery in Focus, funded by Humanity United within The Guardian;
  • Nick Mathiason, co-founder of Finance Uncovered, incubated by the Tax Justice Network, an NGO, to conduct independent investigations into illicit financial flows;
  • Emma Howard of Unearthed, a wholly-owned, but editorially independent journalism unit inside Greenpeace, an environmental campaigning organisation.

Moderator: Sameer Padania, director of Macroscope.

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