I do like a ‘summit’. Properly organised, as this one was, they require of the delegate a greater degree of focus than a conference, seminar or workshop. A ‘summit’ has a sense of mission about it, that there’s a problem that needs solving and we therefore need to bring together a group of people to fix it.

The Journalism Enterprise Summit that took place on 27 February 2015 at the Google Campus in London was convened by François Nel, a Visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University and Director of the University of Central Lancashire’s Media And Digital Enterprise (MADE) Project.

François’s opening remarks (usefully posted online) set out the summit’s aims: “to take the temperature of the Journalism Entrepreneurship Ecosystem and to consider its capacity to foster those enterprises necessary to ensure that the information needs of the diverse communities across the UK are met.”

The excellent range of panels covered all aspects of this ‘ecosystem’ so we heard from a group of journalism entrepreneurs themselves, funders, researchers, and policy specialists.

On the research panel, my contribution was to offer insights into how hyperlocal journalists ‘perform’ entrepreneurship (the subject of a forthcoming paper in Journalism Practice journal). Drawing on interviews with these journalists we find a range of discourses and practices at play including some pretty vociferous rejection of enterprise itself.

Also on the research panel was Clare Cook from UCLAN who discussed her co-authored report on sustainable business models for journalism (SuBMoJour). Tamara Witschge from University of Groningen argued for a focus from researchers on journalism as a set of social practices rather than Journalism Studies’ traditional focus on democratic accountability.

Rachel Matthews from Coventry University and City University’s Jane Singer told us about innovative examples of teaching journalism enterprise whilst Caterina Foà from University of Lisbon gave a detailed analysis of the state of journalism enterprise teaching in higher education.

This academic panel prompted quite an interesting discussion about the state of Journalism Studies which it was felt was still too interested in institutions and legacy practices at the expense of focusing on what’s happening at the edges of journalism practice.

Whilst I enjoyed the thoughtful discussions that took place in the funding and policy panels it was a student journalist on the opening entrepreneurs panel, Lyra McKee (a student here at Birmingham City University as it happens), who made the most impact. Lyra was refreshingly open about her struggles as a freelance investigative journalist and she reminded us of the precariousness of the new economy in journalism. As she said herself: ‘journalism is now like acting. No stability and you’ll spend a lot of time unemployed.’

Lyra’s contribution, as much as anyone’s, made this a more thoughtful summit than most that was left feeling that if we’re to embrace a new era of journalism enterprise, we shouldn’t take for granted that it will ensure a plurality of voices.

 

Birmingham Centre For Media And Cultural Research

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