Interview: „Journalism is in much greater need of support than even we had realised.“

ADAM THOMAS, Director European Journalism Center

When Corona hit, you started the European Journalism COVID-19 Support Fund and immediately received almost 2.000 applications. What did you learn about the current state of Journalism from those applications?

The first lesson we learnt was that journalism is in much greater need of support than even we had realised. The majority of news organisations who applied found that COVID-19 has decreased revenue, especially from advertising. Many of them have not diversified their revenue and have few alternatives. The key challenges involve fixed costs, especially paying staff and freelancers. As a result, organisations are downsizing and ceasing production of newspapers and digital content, both temporarily and permanently. Freelancers are particularly affected as commissions dry up. However, we found some impressive stories of resilience too, especially from organisations who practice engaged journalism that puts their communities at the heart of their editorial and their revenue. From these organisations, we have seen the rapid development of new products, urgent information sharing and direct support from their audiences

Your declared focus in 2020 is „building resilience into journalism“. What does resilient journalism mean to you?

Resilience is about survival and adaptation in uncertain environments. For too long the obsession in the journalism industry has either been about growth and scale, or about “saving” journalism. The future of journalism lies in helping organisations remain tough, but also ready to take advantage of new opportunities. Covid-19 brought huge challenges, but it has also demonstrated the value of journalism, particularly in the fields of community reporting, health and data. That’s an opportunity. Resilient organisations have diversified revenue streams, agile strategies, and flexible approaches that allow them to build back better.

The theme of this year’s M100 is „a new media policy for a new time“. What do we need to change today to still enjoy a plural, independent and functioning media ecosystem in 2030?

Firstly, we have to safeguard press freedom. A functioning media ecosystem needs independent journalism, free from media capture. Then we need to build capacity for resilience in all types of journalism, including those that do not fit in the traditional structure of a newsroom. That requires us to embrace change and accept our failings. Journalism in 2030 will be trustworthy, transparent and a public service. It will need to be diverse, equitable & inclusive. It will have to be improved by technology and financial sustainability is essential. Therefore, we need to urgently build skills and knowledge today, in order to have solid foundations for the journalism of the future.