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Impress founder moves to head up public interest news foundation offering 'grants and advice'

Impress founder Jonathan Heawood is moving to head up a foundation for public interest news, which is funded by the alternative press regulator.

Heawood will take up the role of executive director at the Public Interest News Foundation next week on a 12-month secondment, leaving his role as chief executive of state-approved regulator Impress.

Impress chief operating officer Ed Procter is stepping up as acting chief executive at the regulator and will oversee its next phase of development.

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Heawood (pictured) said: “After six years at Impress and a fantastic experience getting to know the independent publishers who joined, I’m excited to lead this new project to work more closely with them and their audiences.

“I’m also looking forward to seeing Impress flourish under its new leadership, with a sustained commitment to ethical standards.”

The creation of an Institute for Public Interest News was one of nine recommendations made by the Cairncross Review into the sustainability of the UK news industry in the digital age, published one year ago.

But the Government rejected the proposal last month, saying it was not for it to define “what qualifies as ‘public interest’ news” and risked being seen as state “interference with the press”.

The Public Interest News Foundation was set up in November last year with a small team and was originally part of Impress.

The two organisations are now constitutionally separate, with separate boards, but the foundation is supported by Impress at this stage as it looks for other sources of funding.

Impress is part-funded by its more than 100 members – mostly small, independent publications – but relies on grants from from the Independent Press Regulation Trust, which has guaranteed £2.85m in funding for the regulator until 2022.

The IPRT is entirely funded by the Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust, of which former motor sport boss and press reformer Max Mosley is a trustee.

Heawood spoke to Press Gazette in late 2018 about the idea of splitting Impress in two and offering legal advice to member publishers, separate from its role as the UK’s only state-approved regulator.

PINF’s website says it aims to “unlock” the potential of independent news providers “through grants, advice and networking…”

It says: “Traditional newspapers are under pressure, but independent news providers are springing up all over the UK. They are serving communities with great journalism in the public interest. But they face huge challenges.

“At the Public Interest News Foundation, we aim to bring out the unique value of independent news providers of every kind. Through grants, advice and networking, we can unlock their potential to strengthen our democracy.”

Founder trustees of PINF comprise The Conversation deputy editor Jo Adetunji, former House of Lords Communications Committee chairman Lord Richard Inglewood and British Board of British Board of Film Classification president Patrick Swaffer, who is standing down from the Impress board to take up his new role.

Adetunji said: “The Public Interest News Foundation was set up to strengthen the capacity of independent news publishers, so they can better engage communities, exchange ideas and build both infrastructure and sustainability, with a shared approach to high ethical standards.

“Journalism continues to face immense funding challenges in the digital era, and the foundation will seek to develop opportunities for publishers, and research that will benefit the public and contribute to the future sustainability of the sector.”

Picture: Impress

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