The Bedford Independent has been awarded two grants, worth £26,500 apx, to continue fighting ‘churnalism’ and fake news, so Bedfordians have access to a reliable source of quality journalism.
“The grants couldn’t have come at a better time,” said managing editor, Erica Roffe.
“The coronavirus pandemic has hit businesses hard everywhere and while we have created a robust business, we still need to pay our suppliers and freelance journalists.
“These grants will help us do that so we can continue providing our readers with the fact-checked and unbiased reporting they deserve.”
The Bedford Independent has continued to go from strength to strength since its launch in November 2018.
While readership fluctuates throughout the year, an average of 150,000 people read articles published by their editorial team each month.
“Our stats clearly show we are the most widely read, trusted source of news in Bedford Borough,” adds Erica.
“These grants awarded by highly-respected organisations, such as the European Journalism Centre (EJC) and Google, add further evidence that we’re keeping real journalism alive.”
An evolving news desk
As the Bedford Independent approaches its second year, its hoped phase two of the publication’s plans will start to take effect.
“We set out from day one to be independent, refuse to copy and paste media releases, and limit the distraction from advertising on the site,” said Bedford Independent‘s editorial consultant and marketing director, Paul Hutchinson.
“We’ve managed to do that and now we can look at increasing our resources to increase investigative journalism and supporting young journalists with paid work.”
Funding across the local news sector has been strained for many years, without added pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.
But the Bedford Independent took the decision to support local businesses hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown, by advertising those that were remaining open for free as part of their ‘Buy Local or Bye Local’ campaign.
“We’ve always been conscious of not putting all our revenue eggs in one basket and doing what we can to support local businesses,” adds commercial director, Julia Course-Crofts.
“We said from day one that advertising would not distract from our reader experience and so we limit our ad space and carefully choose who we will take ads from.
“Heading into phase two, we’ve started to slowly increase other revenue streams like our property pages, public notices, classified ads and also reader contributions.
“As these revenue streams increase we can build a more robust business, increases our services, support Bedford more, and employ more local people.”
The Bedford Independent is here to stay
“It hasn’t been easy setting up the Bedford Independent,” adds Paul. “We’ve had to adapt and evolve our plans and we certainly didn’t forecast a global pandemic and subsequent recession.”
“Ultimately though, we are all very passionate about Bedford. We want to help promote its positives and shine a light on its negatives so they can improve.”
And as the business grows, its editorial will also see greater coverage and more investigative reporting.
“We are inundated with news releases and questions from the public every day,” reveals Erica.
“It’s clear we can do more and we are only limited by our physical resource in wanting to cover the things that matter to our fellow Bedfordians.
“We’ll soon be looking into more investigative journalism and also supporting aspiring writers with more paid work too.”
The Bedford Independent has already supported many young journalists to cut their teeth with a regulated news desk.
These include teenagers, Harry McPhail, and Sophia Baker, who provide historical and film columns and graduate Ivan Morris Poxton, who is writing detailed and investigative reports.
Local sports writers have also been able to craft their skills with the Bedford Independent.
Tom Carr has provided invaluable support to the sport’s desk, while Will Hooley has used his experiences to support his journalism degree and has also recently started writing for The Guardian.
Match reports have also allowed writers at local sports clubs to get their news to the people who want to read it.
The European Journalism COVID-19 Support Fund, is a joint fund by the European Journalism Centre and Facebook’s Journalism Project.
They provide core funding to support community engagement initiatives, address critical business needs, and facilitate innovative journalistic coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Google’s News Initiative’s Journalism Relief Fund has been set up to support the production of original journalism for local communities in the face of theCOVID-19 pandemic.
Operating globally, it provides an easily-accessible route to financial assistance at this critical time.
They are also members of the Independent Community News Network (ICNN), which supports new forms of local digital journalism and explores new, sustainable models for news.