COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the news media, with many independent news media across the world facing potentially catastrophic declines in income and contemplating significant cost-cutting and at worst closing down. The Independent News Emergency Relief Coordination (INERC) was an effort to help funders willing and able to provide significant financial support for independent news media better understand where the need was greatest and coordinate their efforts to make the greatest possible difference in this moment.
The challenges many news organisations are facing are bad news for our societies and our ability to combat the coronavirus, because independent news media are key to helping people understand the crisis and act accordingly to protect themselves and their communities, and because independent news media are key to both publicizing and scrutinizing how governments and other powerful institutions respond to the crisis.
INERC was based on the idea that better information on the need for and supply of emergency funding relief can help ensure this relief is more effectively distributed globally and avoid a situation where a few well-known news media get a lot of support from many different funders while many more equally important but less well known get little or no support. The purpose of INERC is:
- Collecting data to identify areas of greatest need from independent news media across the world, including both for-profit and non-profit, but excluding government-controlled and state-owned media.
- On this basis, advising funders as to where they can make the greatest possible difference.
- Providing optional overall guidelines for those considering stepping up to provide funding help for independent news media during the coronavirus crisis.
What made INERC unique was that it directly connects several major funders, networks organizing independent news media, media development organizations, and research capacity to enable more effective and informed coordinated emergency relief. It was a temporary initiative, initially planned for six months, and supplement the important work done by others to coordinate media funding and media development. INERC came to an end on 31 October 2020.
INERC was chaired by Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) at the University of Oxford working with the Institute's Head of Leadership Development Federica Cherubini, and with support from Luminate. INERC involved a group of charities, foundations, nonprofits, and private companies providing emergency relief in the form of financial support for independent news media.
Founding members included BBC Media Action, Center for International Media Assistance, Facebook, Global Forum for Media Development, Google, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Luminate, WAN-IFRA, World Association of News Publishers.
Since we started on May 1, the following new members joined INERC: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Democracy Fund, European Journalism Centre, International Center for Journalists, International Women’s Media Foundation, and Open Society Foundations – Program on Independent Journalism. Meedan was a supporting partner of the project.
INERC was open to organisations in a position to offer significant financial support to independent news media joining on the basis of support from existing members.
The members aimed to coordinate their response to the crisis in part by facilitating collection of data which is anonymised, analysed, and presented by the Reuters Institute publicly and to the group’s members to enable a better understanding of the coronavirus crisis’ impact on independent news media and to enable more informed decision making among major funders offerings emergency relief for journalism. All the data collected as part of this research is kept strictly confidential and is only available to the Reuters Institute's researchers. INERC members met regularly to discuss research findings, coordinate responses, and share ideas, but all decisions about the research were taken by the Reuters Institute.
INERC’s ambition was to help guide tens and hopefully hundreds of millions of US dollars to those independent news media around the world who need the help the most in this difficult situation during the coronavirus crisis.
We hope that this temporary collaboration will also inform and support the creation of the International Fund for Public Interest Media (IFPIM) that Luminate and others are working to set up to provide more long-term structure for channelling funding from development agencies, philanthropic donors and platform companies to independent journalism across the world in a way that protects news media’s editorial independence. The founding members initiated INERC on the basis of long-running conversations in informal advisory conversations around the IFPIM and hope other funders will join the coordination effort. Here's how INERC operated:
- Day-to-day, it was run by a small secretariat at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism working with support from Luminate.
- The INERC group members provided input on the work, made decisions about admission of new members and get regular updates on the research based on fully anonymised data to coordinate and inform their funding support for independent news media.
- INERC worked with other organisations on understanding the needs of independent news media and on the data collection.
As part of its effort to help funders better understand where the need is greatest and coordinate their efforts to make the greatest possible difference INERC surveyed independent news media globally to collect data on how the coronavirus crisis is impacting them. The survey was in the field in English and in multiple other languages.
The INERC survey was a survey of news media organisations specifically and focused exclusively on how the pandemic has impacted audience reach, business model, revenues, and what kinds of support might be helpful. It supplemented other important efforts underway elsewhere to understand the impact on individual journalists and wider issues including advocacy, development, and policy.
All data are confidential and only accessible to researchers at the Reuters Institute, all findings only presented in a fully anonymised and aggregate way. If respondents provide us with explicit permission at the end of the survey, we will share their contact information and what kinds of help they would find beneficial with INERC group members, but nothing else is shared. The survey is for data collection, not a funding application, and all funding decisions are made by individual INERC members.
See survey below for information only.
Please direct all media inquiries to the INERC chair, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen.