INMA’s commitment to inspire news media companies to embrace business practices that sustain impactful journalism is being paired with one of the world’s most urgent situations: the war in Ukraine.
On Wednesday at its Media Subscriptions Week in Copenhagen, INMA unveiled a scholarship programme to support local Ukrainian publishers and journalism in the wake of its invasion by Russia. INMA is partnering with the Ukrainian Media Fund to provide long-term strategy help with the goal of lifting up eight to 10 news media countries in the country over the next two years.
In the days after the Russian attack, the fund was created by the Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation, partnering with Nordic media companies: Bonnier News (Sweden), the Swedish Media Publisher’s Association, the Association of Danish Media (including Dagspressens Fond/Danske Medier), the Finnish Media Federation, News Media Finland, and the Norwegian Media Businesses’ Association.
So far, they have raised almost €800,000. Response from the fund involves two steps:
Step 1 (currently happening): Nordic media companies were asked to donate flack jackets, cameras, and video equipment, which were transported into Ukraine by the media companies.
Step 2 (2023-2024): Long-term sustainability support to Ukranian media companies.
“Journalism is indispensable in a well-functioning society,” said Gert Ysebaert, first vice president of INMA and CEO of Mediahuis in Belgium. “It’s critical now more than ever. We have to be aware that we all in this room … we are privileged because we work in fairly strong economies. Our democracies are still functioning well. And even for us … it is very difficult to guarantee the sustainability of what we are doing — the sustainability of our media companies and our journalism.
“But imagine that you are living in a country that is under attack. Imagine you are working in a company where you’re not sure you will have newsprint for the paper for the next week or that you will have the money to pay for the newsprint or journalists. Or even worse, that your journalists are under attack or their families are being intimidated or that you have to leave everything behind.”
This, of course, has been the situation since the Russian government invaded Ukraine in February.
INMA will offer selected Ukrainian news media companies a one-year association corporate membership inclusive of access to livestream and on-demand training master classes and Webinars designed to boost audience development, digital advertising, newsroom innovation, data analytics, and product. The INMA Ukrainian initiative also includes access to the INMA global membership network.
“Lots of organisations are helping with this,” Ysebaert said. “How can we contribute with the strength of INMA? The first thing we can do, a modest step, is introducing a scholarship for media companies in Ukraine, offering them a free membership with everything that comes with this membership — support, Webinars, master classes. There are very urgent needs — money, helmets, news print — but in the long term, they will also need to build up a viable business model. And that is where we can help. This is where INMA can step in.”
Thomas Mattsson, senior advisor at Bonnier News, and Mads Brandstrup, CEO of Danske Medier in Denmark, shared how the fund is going and where INMA fits in.
“Beyond direct emergency aid, in July I went to Lviv to talk about what we can do to help going forward,” Mattsson said. “What is clear is that after this war is over, the Ukraine that will be rebuilt is going to be another Ukraine — a democratic Ukraine with a population that demands democratic reforms.”
The Ukranian media, generally, is not free nor independent. Many media companies are owned by the government and others by oligarchs, which allow those with money to influence reporting.
“But we have been able to identify a number of media outlets, especially local and regional, that are independent,” Brandstrup said. “So what we talk to them about is: How can we help you become part of the rebuilding of a democratic Ukraine? What they told us is: Don’t give us money, give us a business model.”
New business strategy.
“This is why the commitment from INMA is so important,” Brandstrup said. “We need all the help we can get. We especially need the competence, the experience, and all the skills that INMA brings to the table. We hope that our effort will also be supported by the Scandinavian governments as well as the EU. Our ambition over the next two years is to be able to lift up eight to 10 Ukranian media companies to a level … to be truly independent media. You can’t imagine how much that means to Ukranian media. The support that we can provide … is met with a gratitude that you can’t understand.”
The Ukrainian Media Fund cooperates with three established Ukrainian media organisations to review the local newspapers that receive the fund’s support. Every six to eight weeks, the fund donates US$20,000 to each organisation for further distribution to about 50 newspapers.