Look, Listen, Local: The Innovation Fund was launched recently in Parktown, Johannesburg, at a breakfast gala attended by corporates, top women in the media representing the community media and mainstream media sectors, and media stakeholders.
The fund will draw attention to the incredible work of community media, with a distinct gender approach. In South Africa, less than 10% of people speak English at home, yet the majority of the news is published in English. In contrast, community media is published in all eleven official languages, directly serving the communities they operate in. One of the two partners in the fund, The Association of Independent Publishers (AIP), works to ensure community media remains sustainable so that publishing in local languages continues.
The other partner in the fund, Quote This Woman+ (QW+), provides support through gender advocacy. QW+ will use their 50% portion of the fund to continue their work in closing the gender gap in who gets reported in the news as an expert — currently, four out of five experts are men. The Innovation Fund allows QW+ to dedicate particular focus to increasing the number of community voices on their database of women+ experts that journalists use to find sources.
AIP and QW+ used the launch of Look, Listen, Local to highlight the issues facing community media and the interventions being proposed by community media publishers, with a gender lens. At the breakfast gala, the stage was owned by four women at the top of their fields: veteran community media publisher Mbali Dhlomo, journalist Verashni Pillay, economist Mamokete Lijane and community activist (and former politician) Mbali Ntuli. Between thought-provoking analysis by the all-star panel, attendees were entertained by local comedy darling Noko Moswete.
“We jumped at the opportunity to support this important fund. Not only are women our priority, but we are particularly aligned to the Innovation Fund’s attention to the much under-served group of women in South Africa living in small towns, villages and townships speaking languages other than English,” said Seugnette van Wyngaard, Head of 1st for Women Insurance, the Platinum sponsor of the fund.
1st for Women went a step further and filled the seats at their sponsor’s table with young, up-and-coming student journalists from WITS to give them the opportunity to launch their careers and get early awareness of the multifaceted nature of the South African media landscape.
Many corporates followed in the footsteps of van Wyngaard’s support with Sanlam, Nedbank and Hollard also coming on board as platinum sponsors. AVBOB joined the fund as a silver sponsor and in a gesture of authentic solidarity with the Innovation Fund’s mission, similarly, filled their table with an array of Quote This Woman+ experts instead of their own corporate team. Caxton Printers, known for their work in corporate community media, showed their support to the fund as well, an important reminder that the media ecosystem needs both the mainstream and community media. Other fund supporters present were the Gauteng City-Region Observatory, Workshop17 and the Daily Maverick. Aiming to raise R2 Million before South Africa’s next elections, by launch date the fund had topped over R800 000.
“The problem with the current news cycle is that it keeps serving the comfortable at the expense of everybody else. Look, Listen, Local is an Innovation Fund to subvert that,” says Kath Magrobi, Director of QW+. She said, QW+ partnered with AIP so that in the lead-up to the 2024 elections the two organisations could work together to strengthen and democratise news from the grassroots up.
Both organisations have agreed to use the fund for innovations specific to their roles in the current news context, meaning these will shift over time. In 2024, AIP’s Executive Director, Kate Skinner stated that they will prioritise the transitioning of AIP’s members who are not yet online.
AIP is a membership-based organisation of community news publishers that serve thousands of South Africans a month. In fact the AIP boasts a collective circulation of almost 8 million readers monthly.
In 2024, QW+ plans to add 25 media-trained community experts to its database, able to bring a grass-roots perspective to political news coverage across QW+’s languages and regions. They will also monitor the South African election news cycle and find women+ experts able to reframe narratives and offer more nuanced perspectives.
Set to be a yearly Spring event, the launch of Look, Listen, Local: The Innovation Fund was a major success for AIP and QW+, with both organisations looking forward to their first bi-annual report on the fund’s activities in six months’ time. Skinner and Magrobi used the launch event to acknowledge their gratitude to all sponsors; especially 1st for Women, Sanlam and The South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP), whose early commitments and seed funding made the event, and the fund, a possibility.
For pictures of the event, see below:
Event photos by: Paul Lenyora Visuals (please credit)
From QW+, no attribution required