Cash help for media, free news in JNI initiatives

Three initiatives to support media organisations and journalists during the COVID-19 pandemic have been announced by Australia's Judith Neilson Institute.

They include a funding boost for freelancers and casual contributors, a free news service for community radio stations, and help in tackling misinformation including on social media.

JNI executive director Mark Ryan says the "temporary measure" was aimed at providing help quickly and efficiently where it was most needed. "All sectors of the economy are affected and the impact on journalism is profound," he said.

"While more people are reading, watching and listening to news, media organisations are struggling with the financial implications of the crisis."

He says JNI had consulted with industry leaders in developing the response. It learned two early casualties of media cost-cutting had been freelancers and casual contributors.

A new JNI fund will support these journalists and provide some cost-relief to media organisations, which can apply for financial support on specific projects.

The institute says this might be one story, or a series of stories, or editorial support, or photographic assignments - "there is no limitation on topics".

All media organisations including independent and regional media, are encouraged to apply.

Ryan (pictured) says funding will be administered and distributed on a rolling basis over the coming two to three months. Further details on how to apply can be found here.

Responding to the impact of the pandemic on Australia's network of more than 450 community radio stations - where sponsorship has fallen and volunteers are forced to work from home - JNI is giving funding to the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia to enable it to provide its National Radio News service free of charge for six months. Currently more than 80 stations pay a subscription fee-for-service which reaches some 1.3 million listeners a week. Making the service free will provide cost-relief to these stations but also allow many more stations to access it, giving the news service a total potential reach of 5.8 million listeners a week.

Mark Ryan says that - with the public "overwhelmed with news about COVID-19, from mainstream to social media" - JNI will help news consumers make sense of this information by supporting RMIT's ABC Fact Check, enabling it to commit additional resources to efforts to tackle misinformation on COVID-19.

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