The cooperative – an old model for new journalism?

Could one of the new models for journalism include a time-honoured model – the cooperative?

It seems almost a no-brainer. There are now so many journalists frustrated by the difficulties of practising their trade in an environment dominated by profit-hungry executives uninterested journalism’s traditional values that you’d think we’d be getting together and, well, cooperating.

The puzzle, then, is that there are almost no attempts to start media coops. Recently I was asked to contribute a comment to Creative Cooperatives – a site launched by Cooperatives UK to encourage those in the creative industries to consider the cooperative approach. But I had to confess that the only journalists’ coop I knew of – Local News South Wales in Port Talbot – was struggling to get off the ground. One of its directors, Mike Burrows, cites a lack of support as a key factor, adding that the some of the redundant journos initially involved had now got jobs in PR, and were now losing interest.

In an article in the NUJ’s Journalist magazine, Cooperatives UK’s secretary general Ed Mayo admits he doesn’t know of any significant journalist coops in the UK.

NMJ has since heard of a promising journalists’ coop-in-the-making, the details of which may be disclosed at some future point. But the puzzle remains as to why so little thought is being given to the model. Is it because most journalists are so habituated to being either employees working in hierarchical editorial structures or operating as solo freelances that the model seems alien? Is there something about the culture emerging around the new technologies that makes the ‘new generation journalist’ a solitary, enterprising, figure? Answers, on a post, please …

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