Apr 15, 2015

Here's what we found when we took the pulse of the journalism entrepreneurship ecosystem in the UK

There are a number of reasons why the Journalism Entrepreneurship Summit hosted by Google at Campus London on 27th February 2015 was remarkable.

Yes, it was the first forum of its kind to bring together entrepreneurs, funding and support agencies, policy makers, educators and researchers. But the story doesn’t end there: The workshop, which was sponsored by the Media And Digital Enterprise (MADE) project at the University of Central Lancashire and convened in collaboration with the International Press Institute and Talk About Local, had the ambitious aim to take the pulse of the journalism ecosystem in the UK.

Of course, a one-day workshop is all too short to surface the full range of relevant issues, acknowledged the convenor Fran├žois Nel, now also a Visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.

“I wish it had been possible for us to involve more voices, to listen even more closely to those passionately and creatively working to drive innovation in this space, and to spend more time deliberating what may be done next,” wrote Nel in the interim summit report entitled, Talking the Pulse.

 “That said, over the course of the day we were able to draw on the knowledge and experiences of more than 70 engaged individuals with a wide range of experience, expertise and perspectives. Thus it was possible to get at least some idea of the critical issues affecting both the quality and velocity of journalism entrepreneurship, and for that I would like to thank everyone involved.”

Whatever other insights a closer examination of the grain of the discussions at the Journalism Entrepreneurship Summit might bring, Nel said there should be no doubt about this:

 “Digital-savvy journalism entrepreneurs operating at different scales and levels of intensity and in a variety of genres and formats are now a standard feature on our news media landscape and they make an essential contribution to meeting the critical information needs of our communities. Hence, any conversation about the media in the UK – whether in classrooms, boardrooms or committee meeting rooms – that fails to seriously factor in this segment of the industry cannot be considered comprehensive.

 “Perhaps it’s time to go even further? Perhaps it’s time to draw a line in the sand and to declare inadequate any policy, any regulation, any legislation, any curriculum, any research agenda, any representative body, any intervention or any other initiative with ambitions to address the concerns of the news media in the UK and that does not devote substantial attention to new and emerging news enterprises, including (those definitely not exclusively) those operating at local and hyperlocal levels?

“Yes, the (not so) new news media enterprises are a standard and essential segment of the industry. Therefore, their well-being should not be taken for granted. If our journalism entrepreneurship ecosystem is to function at the scale, velocity and effectiveness required to meet the varied needs of society and to ensure the sustainability of the enterprises, there is much work to be done - and there is much need for greater collaboration amongst those at work in this space.”  

Just before the close of the Journalism Entrepreneurship Summit, five final questions were put to everybody in the room. Participants were asked to consider the day’s discussions and, based on a scale of 1 (very bad) to 10 (very good), to rate the health of each of the following components of the Journalism Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in the UK: the regulatory environment; the service and support infrastructures; and the operating environment. Finally, they were asked to give an overall rating. Responses were submitted by the participants via tablets.  Results were calculated live and displayed on the screen, updating in real-time.

The workshop participants rated the overall health of the journalism entrepreneurial ecosystem at 5.6 out of 10.  “A physician might interpret that as stable but with some significant risk factors, most notably in the areas of policy and support for entrepreneurs,” said Nel. “To achieve optimum health will the take even greater effort – and deeper collaboration – by all those involved.” 

The team involved in the first Journalism Entrepreneurship Summit are keen to continue to play a constructive role - and remain eager to connect others who do too

Here are some ways to connect:

DOWNLOAD the 24-page #JES2015 interim report at: http://bit.ly/jes2015takingthepulse

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