News Futures 2035 Initiative Calls for Collaborative Action to Safeguard Public-Interest News in the UK

Lancashire, UK – The News Futures 2035 initiative, led by researchers from the Media Innovation Studio at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and supported by the Google News Initiative, has released its highly anticipated Interim Report. This report serves as a rallying cry for all stakeholders invested in the future of public-interest news in the UK, urging them to come together in a structured and inclusive manner to address the critical challenges facing this vital service. The interim report provides a roadmap for collective action, highlighting the opportunities presented by the creation of a News Futures Forum.

Dr François Nel, the driving force behind this groundbreaking project, emphasised the importance of a holistic and inclusive approach to addressing the challenges faced by 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,” stated Dr Nel, Reader of Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UCLan. Since October 2022, more than 300 experts from within and outside the news industry have collaborated under the News Futures 2035 initiative to envision and create a better future for the provision of trustworthy public-interest news.

group photo of plenary 3
News Futures 2035 Roundtable Plenary Three

The Interim Report was unveiled during a thought-provoking webinar chaired by Jeremy Clifford, a research team member of News Futures 2035 and a consultant at FT Strategies, as well as a Visiting Research Fellow at UCLan. The session featured contributions from Matt Cooke of Google News Labs and a presentation of the report’s highlights by Dr François Nel. Steering board members Emma Meese from the Independent Community News Network (ICNN), Jonathan Heawood from the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF), and Alison Gow, a former senior executive of Reach Plc and past president of the Society of Editors, shared their personal reflections on the project. The recorded session is available for viewing via the project website.

Emma Meese, Director of the ICNN, expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to learn from diverse perspectives, stating, “We often reflect on current issues [within journalism], but more often than not, we do that from our own sector’s perspective. Being able to listen to how everybody else is tackling essentially what is the same problem but in very different ways has been really enlightening.”

Jonathan Heawood, Executive Director of the PINF, underlined his support for the initiative, emphasising the need for collective intelligence in addressing pressing questions such as the integration of AI in news and the harmonisation of social media and traditional news media. He said, “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. 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?”

Jonathan Heawood
Jonathan Heawood, Public Interest News Foundation

Alison Gow highlighted the importance of open discussions and the inclusion of ideas beyond our silos, stating, “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… 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 aims to provide precisely that framework. Dr François Nel called upon all those concerned about the future of public-interest news to join forces and transform the recommendations outlined in the interim report into reality. He encouraged individuals to share the report within their networks and provide feedback through a short form.

The final report of News Futures 2035 is slated for release in the autumn. In the meantime, the initiative welcomes any questions or suggestions and encourages interested parties to reach out via email at newsfutures@uclan.ac.uk.