The Flemish Journalism Fund was launched in September 2018 with the specific purpose of offering future-oriented support for independent, high-quality and innovative journalism in Flanders. The fund was a collaboration between Journalismfund.eu, the Flemish Journalists Association VVJ and the Flemish Government. The idea for a fund focused on innovation in journalism had been smoldering in our lap for some time, inspired by the Dutch Stimuleringsfonds voor de Journalistiek. After all, journalism is in a massive transition at the moment in the way it is produced, shared and consumed. Without support, quality journalism is in danger of becoming disconnected from a large part of the citizens it is supposed to inform.
The aim of the Flemish Journalism Fund was threefold: to offer grants for innovative journalistic projects, to initiate a platform for knowledge-sharing about news and media, and to foster collaboration with the Netherlands. As far as innovation is concerned, the fund wanted to go beyond the so-called ‘Shiny Things Syndrome’ and focuses not solely on technology, but on innovation in all aspects of journalism. That means that stories or initiatives that make use of new ways of storytelling were eligible for support from the Flemish Journalism Fund as well. The same went for initiatives trying to develop an interesting business model, or for journalists who think about new ways to reach a public that might not normally have interest in or access to quality journalism.
In its brief period of operation (September 2018 until July 2020), the Flemish Journalism Fund clearly left its mark on the Flemish media landscape. Not just via the innovative projects it supported – in 2018, it distributed €500,000 in grants to 11 projects that were approved out of 37 applications – but also through knowledge sharing and via the pressure it exerted on policy makers. It has for example, together with the Pascal Decroos Fund for Investigative Journalism, published a memorandum with ten clear and concrete suggestions to improve the quality and diversity in Flanders’ journalistic landscape.
The support structure Journalismfund.eu offered the Flemish Journalism Fund through its incubator was crucial. Without Journalismfund.eu’s logistic and administrative support, the Flemish Journalism Fund would not have been able to stay afloat, which would have meant a loss for media diversity in Flanders.
We will continue to look out for interesting initiatives to adopt in our incubator to keep encouraging diversification in the media landscape and, ultimately, strengthen democracy.