Securing a strong and viable future for public interest journalism in Australia
The Public Interest Journalism Initiative (PIJI) is a start-up organisation founded by a small group of people committed to a vibrant future for public interest journalism. PIJI is focused on delivering viable solutions. It is a lean organisation with a high degree of strategic sophistication. Designed to be a catalyst for change, it gives an absolute priority to working collaboratively across all areas including research and policy development. PIJI is non-partisan and determinedly independent.
+ The Issue
Public interest journalism in Australia is in crisis, devastated by the collapse of the business model that has underpinned it. Tough investigative journalism; detailed scrutiny of the courts, corporations and governments; and in-depth coverage of education, justice, science, environment, economic and other issues can no longer be guaranteed. The flight of advertising dollars to cutting-edge digital platforms and the corresponding shrinking of newspapers and broadcasters has led to the retrenchment of over 3,000 journalists in the last six years with the prospect of more losses ahead. Regional and rural Australia is experiencing the most severe effects, with newsrooms being centralised, stories being syndicated, and coverage of local voices and news shrinking. An informed public is crucial to our democracy; if the journalism that sheds light in dark places dies, Australian democracy withers too.
+ Project Description
PIJI seeks to respond to this threat by addressing three aspects critical to securing a sustainable future for public interest journalism in Australia. Firstly, PIJI will mobilise an informed public constituency with compelling evidence and policy options. Secondly, the Initiative will work to convince parliament and key influencers that strategic support (both policy and resourcing) is necessary and urgent. Thirdly, PIJI will promote policy measures and a philanthropic environment that nurtures media innovation and new business models. These are system- wide reforms supporting a plurality of media voices: mainstream media, smaller publishers, local and new niche media. Australian democracy is the primary beneficiary.
+ Project Activities
To ensure these three areas are strategically addressed, PIJI’s planning covers the next three years. Key activities for the first year include:
- The official launch
- High-level meetings with political leaders and media executives to introduce PIJI
- ‘Case Studies’ report commissioned to highlight the state of local/regional public interest journalism plus ‘briefs’ and community resources
- Advocacy in conjunction with the pre-election policy debates
- Speaking tours with international media leaders
- ‘Public Interest Journalism: The Way Forward’ policy summit in Canberra.
PIJI anticipates the following short-term outcomes:
- A well-informed, active constituency of ‘influencers’ backing reforms to support public interest journalism as a prominent national issue.
- Explicit recognition of the threat with a commitment to act from the Australian Government and Opposition.
- Specific policy commitments (e.g. removing barriers to philanthropic support and developing local and regional measures) from the major parties.
PIJI’s efforts will deliver a stronger, more sustainable public interest journalism ecosystem through better funding, policy reform and innovation. This ecosystem will ensure sustainable business models for investigative journalism and a plurality of voices in the public sphere. In this reformed ecosystem, public broadcasters will be able to maintain editorial independence and integrity.
+ Why Now?
The urgency is real. With over 3,000 Australian public journalism jobs lost in the past six years, the industry is now at a tipping point. Nine Entertainment’s recent takeover offer for Fairfax Media highlights the immediate vulnerability of major media companies and public interest journalism at large. The hard work, research, public engagement and policy development at the heart of PIJI is needed more than ever.