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UCLan Study calls for collaborative action to safeguard public interest news


A Google-backed report is calling for joined up action to address the “critical challenges” facing public interest news.

The News Futures 2035 Initiative is led by researchers from the University of Central Lancashire and Media Innovation Studio, and supported by the Google News Initiative.

Since October last year, they’ve heard from more than 300 experts within and outside the news industry to see how to create a better future for the provision of trustworthy public interest news.

“During the process, the participants and research team came to realise that efforts to tackle the challenges faced by public-interest news are more likely to succeed if they are informed by a comprehensive understanding of the issues, inclusive of diverse perspectives, and delivered in a timely and joined-up manner,” said Dr François Nel, Reader of Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UCLan.

That’s why they believe today’s interim report serves as a “rallying cry” for stakeholders to come together in a structured and inclusive manner and the outlines a roadmap for action to create a News Futures Forum.

“Participating in the News Futures 2035 process gave me a deeper insight into the fact that there’s a disconnect between what we do and what the public perception of journalists is…,” said Alison Gow, former Reach Senior Executive and President of the Society of Editors.

“I think one of my biggest takeaways is that we need to have more time for these discussions. By that, I mean actual physical time in diaries to be present and engaged and contributing to the discussions that are happening, and then room in our own heads to embrace the ideas that come from outside of our comfort zones.”

The proposed News Futures Forum comes as the reach of print and online newspapers in the UK declines, trust is also falling, while technology, such as AI brings further threats to dis- and misinformation.

The Forum would be a “multi-stakeholder”, multidisciplinary collaboration to “improve the state of the information system on which we depend.”

 “For those of us who care about producing public-interest journalism for the audience, there are a bunch of problems where we would benefit from collective intelligence,”explained Jonathan Heawood, Executive Director of the Public Interest News Foundation.

“For example, on questions like what’s the right way of approaching AI in news, and how do we find a way to reconcile the best of social media and the best of news media?”

The final report of News Futures 2035 is slated for release in the autumn.

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