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‘We’ve never had a benefactor... It made sense to turn to our readers’

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New Internationalist co-editor Hazel Healy and Web Editorial Assistant Alessio Perrone.

What prompted New Internationalist to go down this road?

It felt like we had to do something big. Our paid subscriptions have dropped in recent years, in line with print’s decline worldwide. And that’s been a big knock for a small, independent company like ours.

At the same time, things are starting to look up. Magazine circulation has grown this year, digital sales are increasing – and we are reaching many more millions, through our website, than we could have dreamed of when this magazine was born 44 years ago.

So, we are at a point where we have a plan for how to turn things around, and where we need this uplift to get back up on to higher ground. We’ve never had a benefactor – obviously an oligarch is out of the question. It made sense to turn to our readers and others who share their values through this Community Share Offer.

Is now a good time for this?

Absolutely. With President Trump wreaking havoc in the US and the spread of fake news and zero-sum nationalism, there has never been a greater need for journalism like ours. It’s a frightening time: progressive voices urgently need to be heard; we need to be breaking out of the leftwing echo-chamber and reaching a bigger audience. The share offer will help us to do that.

There are many challenges ahead – climate change and yawning inequality to name but two. To handle what’s coming we need knowledge – not clickbait.

We need journalism that brings people together; that makes the point that we rise or fall together. This is what internationalism – and our journalism – is all about.

The public is more on board with the idea of bolstering good media. Journalism projects on the funding site Kickstarter raised over $6 million last year and over 20 per cent of those funded were established media organizations like ours.

And our subscribers are quite special – ‘idealistic, energetic and concerned about the lives of people thousands of miles away’, in the words of former co-editor Dexter Tiranti.

They stepped in for us once before, in 1975, when the oil crisis doubled the price of postage in one year. Cheques rolled in from educationalists, NGOs, individuals from across the world. Today, we have tens of thousands pledged already. It definitely feels like the right time for us to do this.

Can you explain what a community share offer is?

Say there is a community asset – like a windfarm or local shop or football club – that you want to set up or save. Well, you can do it through a community share offer.

It’s been catching on in recent years, enabling people to club together to create or support businesses with a social benefit.

If things go to plan, you may even get interest on your investment. But it is more that you buy a share to invest in the kind of world you’d like to live in.

'We write about others coming together to change things; now it’s our turn'

A world – for example – with a flourishing New Internationalist in it, producing quality journalism that makes the case for a more equal world and gets progressive political ideas out to new audiences.

In our share issue, anyone over 16 can buy shares. And a small shareholder will have just as much power as a large one.

Won’t that be a major shift in power dynamics?

It is a big, bold offer to give away power, yes. When our supporters invest, they become the joint custodians of our mission, charged with keeping us on track and ensuring that New Internationalist can never deviate from its founding principles as laid down in our Editorial Charter.

We have converted into a co-operative society, which allows for multiple stakeholders and gives us new mechanisms such as a Common Council, as a more active forum for engaging with content and direction in the company.

It will be a big cultural shift for us – as a workers’ co-operative – but there’s a certain logical progression there, too. We were founded by Peter and Lesley Adamson, then owned by the workers and now by our readers and supporters.

It’s a way to truly democratize the media and do something big ourselves – we write about others coming together to change things; now it’s our turn.

So, what makes New Internationalist special – what do you do that others don’t do?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this over the past six months. I’ve drawn on readers’ letters and testimonials in the process – to understand what it is people value about us.

Our readers often talk about our attention to facts, the opportunity to go in-depth into a subject (which of course we love as journalists and editors). Then there is also the way we tell our stories – giving people a dignified platform. Never talking down to our readers.

And, the way we bring to life the realities of people thousands of miles away connects us to one another in way that a mainstream-media piece about, say, ‘100 girls undergo female genital mutilation in a day’ will never do.

The final factor that sets us apart is, of course, our concern with justice – knowing that the way things are is neither natural nor inevitable. We lay out alternatives and introduce the people working to change things for the better.

We have distilled all that into the campaign slogan ‘Buy into a Better Story’ with the tagline ‘facts and heart’ – which was actually based on a comment from a Canadian subscriber about the Ebola magazine in June last year.

You are going for £500,000 ($635,000) and this is an all-or-nothing campaign on Crowdfunder. If you don’t raise the money you will have to return what you raise. Why the radical step?

We got to this target after a lot of number-crunching. And we think this is the minimum we need to turn our business round, scale up and flourish into the future.

You have to remember that a share offer is substantively different to a funding drive – which says ‘fund us to continue doing what we do’. In this case, we are saying ‘invest in us, to help transform our organization’.

With that sum, we will relaunch the magazine, hugely increase our digital output and grow our book publishing and Ethical Shop social enterprise. Anything less will only be a sticking plaster. See factsandheart.org for the full business plan…

OK. I’m in – I want to buy into a better story! How do I invest?

Excellent question! Go to factsandheart.org or call us on +44(0) 1865 413304 (UK) or (613) 826 1319 (Canada/US)

Before you go...

It’s a critical time to build media that brings people together – not drives them apart. That means journalism that creates an inclusive global community, and emphasizes that the struggles of people are often in opposition to the same elite-driven globalization and share the same aspiration to a global, common good.

At New Internationalist, we have never had a rich benefactor or a media tycoon bankrolling what we do. So it makes sense for us to turn to our readers to help shape the kind of journalism that makes the case for something better.

On 1 March, we launched an ambitious Community Share Offer, opening up ownership of New Internationalist to ordinary people all over the world. If you are interested in joining us, visit factsandheart.org.

Our 500th issue – time for courage and change

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New Internationalist magazine editors, from left to right: Vanessa Baird, Dinyar Godrej and Hazel Healy.

It won’t last, the young founders of New Internationalist were told 500 issues ago.

‘The main problem was that no-one really believed that a magazine on international development was viable,’ recalls Peter Adamson, one of those young founders. ‘We worked on a leap of faith that there was a large enough potential readership for a magazine like the NI.’

Well, 44 years on, New Internationalist is still here and tackling the themes of global justice that are as relevant today as they were in 1973.

It hasn’t been a smooth ride. There were many periods when it looked as if New Internationalist wasn’t going to make it. At one such point two staff members re-mortgaged their home to keep the presses rolling. But then, at another, worldwide circulation hit more than 80,000.

Apart from an unusually strong focus on marketing and financial planning, what kept the magazine alive was its mission – to report on ‘the people, the ideas, the action for global justice’. Plus, the fundamental belief that change is possible.

If there is one quality that sparks change, it’s courage. It seems fitting, therefore, that for this 500th issue we are focusing on ‘the brave’: courageous individuals who are risking life and limb to make a difference. You may not have heard of them – we have purposely sought people who are not all over the mainstream.

New Internationalist is not a mainstream organization. Its news values are not those of the herd-driven corporate media. We often tackle topics ignored by others. We are not owned by any proprietor, pulling the strings behind the scenes. We only accept advertising that passes certain ethical criteria. Our books are informed by the same editorial principles as the magazine. And our mailorder operation – the Ethical Shop – sources products that are ecological and fairly traded.

Above all we owe our continued existence to you – our readers, supporters and contributors. Which is why we are reaching out to you now at this critical time.

It’s no secret that many magazines and newspapers are in a state of crisis. The internet has transformed the media landscape. On the good side, we are read by many more people now, with our website getting around two million visits a year.

But a business model based on readers buying printed magazines delivers little in an era of free content. In the past few months we have stabilized subscription numbers and seen a slight increase. But it’s not enough for survival.

Which is why we are going public – but in a special way. We are launching a Community Share Offer that will enable people like you to invest in New Internationalist, to own it. It’s a new way of funding independent media which has been successfully trialled by some small publications and is catching on.

The media is too important to be in the hands of a few press barons, which is the current state of play. A democracy needs media plurality and to make this possible it needs diverse ownership models too.

New Internationalist magazine editors, from left to right: Vanessa Baird, Hazel Healy and Dinyar Godrej

You can now be part of the change, part of the media you want to see. Together we can stand up to the Rupert Murdochs of this world. With Donald Trump in the White House and rightwing nationalism spreading across the globe, we need ‘new internationalism’ now more than ever.

Together we can be part of the chorus that says: Yes, a better world and a better media are possible. We’ll buy into that.

Before you go...

It’s a critical time to build media that brings people together – not drives them apart. That means journalism that creates an inclusive global community, and emphasizes that the struggles of people are often in opposition to the same elite-driven globalization and share the same aspiration to a global, common good.

At New Internationalist, we have never had a rich benefactor or a media tycoon bankrolling what we do. So it makes sense for us to turn to our readers to help shape the kind of journalism that makes the case for something better.

On 1 March, we are launching an ambitious Community Share Offer, opening up ownership of New Internationalist to ordinary people all over the world. If you are interested in joining us, visit factsandheart.org.

The top 10 web articles of 2013

Children reading

If every child in the world could carry a library in his pocket, that would be a revolution. Pratham books under a Creative Commons Licence

Your favourite articles reflected some of the hot global issues in 2013. In March, our longtime Indian blogger Mari Marcel Thekaekara reflected on the international outcry after the Delhi rape and murder; sexual violence was never far from the headlines and featured in many of our most-read articles. Our most popular blog written by Didem Tali suggests that the thirst for books is still going strong and bets on technology as a way to get words to the masses – happy reading!

The past year has been an exciting one for newint.org. Other highlights include our exclusive series on the Kenyan elections back in March 2013 in association with On our Radar. We also celebrated entering our 40th year with The Internationalists blogging series that invited thinkers to explore ideas around solidarity and development.

1. Ending the book hunger
If every child in the world could carry a library in his pocket, that would be a revolution said Didem Tali in faraway the most popular blog of the year.

2. India, porn and sexual violence
In July Mari Marcel Thekaekara blogged about a subject that stirred international debate in 2013; one that looks set to continue.

3. Photo essay: for Eritrean migrants, there is more dignity in death
Isabelle Merminod and Tim Baster’s poignant photos captured the grief of the survivors of October’s Lampedusa boat tragedy and the relatives of the Eritrean migrants who drowned trying to reach Europe. Continuing the theme into the New Year, New Internationalist’s January-February issue will explore the detention of migrants worldwide.

4. Can dark tourism ever be a good thing?
In January, Ruth Stokes explored the controversial issue of holidaying in war and disaster zones and asked whether ‘extreme tourism’ can ever be justified.

5. Which is the world’s worst company?
Competition was fierce when Amy Hall gave a low-down on the companies to vote for in Public Eye’s annual ‘who’s who’ of shame. Awards for 2014 are now in the offing.

6. Mexico resists Monsanto corn
Jen Wilton reported on Mexicans’ challenge to the GM giant in the crop’s historic birthplace, ahead of May’s global March Against Monsanto action.

7. Haiti’s struggling healthcare system
Regular blogger Sokari Ekine shed light on the cholera crisis in Haiti and the difficulties of providing healthcare without enough staff or proper facilities.

8. Praying for a new dawn after Delhi rape
Mari Marcel Thekaekara shared this reflection in the midst of India’s – and the world’s – outpouring of grief and anger following the brutal gang rape and murder of a young woman in late 2012.

9. Kenya votes: Risk of election violence ‘unacceptably high’
In the run-up to the polls in March, Kenyan journalist Moses Wasamu examined the potential implications of a fiercely contested vote as part of a New Internationalist series on Kenya’s elections.

10. Why are we so afraid of chemical weapons?
MG Zimeta asked why chemical weapons cross an ethical red line just weeks before the Assad regime used them against the people of Syria.

Social media pick

The pain of blows 

We asked our facebook, twitter and google+ followers what articles grabbed their attention this year. Among those nominated was New Internationalist co-editor Vanessa Baird's account of her attack in Uruguay that vividly brought home the profound effects of health inequality. 

Reporting Syria: can we expect honesty from international media?

A year after the Iraq war the New York Times took the unprecedented step of printing an admission and an apology for some of its coverage of the build-up to the invasion which it found ‘was not as rigorous as it should have been’.

‘In some cases’ they admitted ‘information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged.’ Whilst this may be the only case of a newspaper publishing a high profile apology, many journalists and editors privately acknowledge that their news outlets also failed in their responsibility to adequately challenge official stories coming out of Washington and London or to give fair airing to dissenting views during the build-up to the 2003 war. And yet as the world gears up for military intervention in Syria, it seems that some of the lessons from Iraq have been forgotten.

A different conflict but similar mistakes are being made by journalists reporting it.

Patrick Feller

Last Wednesday, Der Spiegel reported on the content of a ‘secret briefing to select lawmakers’ by the head of BND, Germany’s intelligence agency, Gerhard Schindler. At the briefing Schindler disclosed details of an intercepted phone call between a high-ranking member of Hezbollah and an Iranian Embassy during which Der Spiegel reports the Hezbollah functionary ‘seems to have admitted that poison gas was used’ in last month’s attack on a Damascus suburb.

Despite the fact that the report used the word ‘seems’ and says Schindler ‘gave no indication as to the weight being given to the intercepted telephone call’, the international media has widely treated this report as being an important missing piece of the jigsaw demonstrating the Assad regime’s responsibility for and knowledge of the horrific chemical weapons attack on Ghouta. ‘Intercepted phone calls prove Assad was behind atrocities’ read one headline in the International Business Times and whilst most Western newspapers and broadcasters did not go quite so far, few included the qualifications contained in the Der Spiegel article. None asked how and why details of a supposedly ‘secret briefing’ were leaked to a national newspaper.

Officials never tell bigger and more blatant, more obvious lies than during a time of war

We all know that our governments do not always tell us the full truth, and as Channel 4 News journalist Alex Thompson observed after the invasion of Iraq, officialdom ‘never tell bigger and more blatant, more obvious lies than during a time of war.’ Once war begins, factors such as dependence on official sources and a surge of patriotism mean that our media tends to become less critical of official government propaganda. Indeed according to theorist Scott Althaus, journalists tend to internalize ideological discourses compromising their ability to view a situation objectively. ‘Once journalists have accepted or internalized such a discourse, the focus of news coverage departs from substantive discussion about whether a particular foreign policy can be justified and concentrates on the procedural question of whether the policy can achieve the desired outcome’ he argues.

‘I didn't really do my job properly’ BBC's Rageh Omaar admitted after the Iraq war. ‘I hold my hand up and say we didn’t press the most uncomfortable buttons hard enough.’ CBS anchor, Dan Rather, went even further claiming that had the media done its job ‘we could have avoided war.’

In coverage of the Iraq war, dissenting voices comprised only 5 percent of press quotations

A 2010 study into the British media’s coverage of the Iraq war, starting three days before the start of the invasion, found that ‘both television and press gave substantial reinforcement to the two main official justifications for war’ and ‘relied heavily on coalition sources’. The study Pockets of Resistance found ‘supportive battle coverage prevailed even among newspapers that had opted to oppose the war’ and ‘dissenting voices comprised only 5 percent of press quotations and 3.5 percent of those accessed by television.’ Embedded journalists were less objective than their non-embedded counterparts with 82 per cent of coverage from Sky News' embeds supportive, compared with 72 per cent from their non-embedded reporters.

Whilst the situation in Syria may be more analogous to Libya than Iraq in terms of potential levels of military intervention, the fact that action in Syria is unlikely to get UN Security Council support is a powerful throw-back to 2003. Following the invasion of Iraq, our media has more responsibility than ever to ensure that stories coming out about the Syria crisis are examined forensically and reported accurately and that the media are not used as a tool to bump a reluctant public towards supporting war.

How to read an ad

The circular set diminishes the importance of all the other people, apart from the phone user. She is further highlighted by her clothing, endless legs, confidence and manicured appearance.

This ad jumps on to the bandwagon of MTV style R&B and hiphop glamour. It lays claim to ‘black culture’ but in quite an exotic way.

The setting is entirely designed to project the message: the circular set diminishes the importance of all the other people, apart from the phone user. She is further highlighted by her clothing, endless legs, confident appearance and manicured perfection.

The set could be a trendy bar, but has every appearance of a private jet. A ‘dream lifestyle’ is being evoked.

The ‘where you from/where you at’ message (pitched in colloquial language) is all about aspiration and snobbery.

The waitress is attempting to exert power over the phone user by looking down on her. The user is not even looking at her – ‘I’m in the know here.’ The message that’s meant to be transferred to the consumer is: ‘If you’ve got one of these, you’re not going to be waiting tables – you’re going to be in control.’

This ad relies on disruption. It borrows equity – the idea being for a brand to break through by going into another category and applying the logic of that category to its world. This is cosmetics advertising applied to chocolate ice creams.

It’s a power play. It’s about ‘When I consume this, I feel great and I am sexy. Hey, Mr man, you’re gonna want me.’ This is something sexual and sensual, which makes me feel indulgent and attractive to the opposite sex. Hence, ‘I’m serious.’ As in, I mean business.

The model makes direct eye contact, has flowing hair, her pupils are dilated, her lips full and glossy – all sexual signifiers. Oh, and she’s not wearing any clothes.

The brand is part of the model’s sense of self. The implication is you should identify with it too.

This is as much targeted at men as women – it’s making a statement about women who eat Magnum.

This is the brand as label. (The playful ice cream stick also has a labelling function.)

The entire ad is severely colour controlled – predominantly chocolate tones, with a bit of white which mimics the vanilla ice cream inside the product.

To enhance the feeling of a contained ‘Magnum’ world, there are six repetitions of the name or logo in an ad with barely any copy.

The stick perched above the model’s lip means the product has already been consumed by her. Ahhh, that’s why she’s so alluring.

Simple, classic, conceptual idea which allows you not to work too hard. The appeal is to standard things that you know. This gets the message across quickly.

There are status cues – Ocean Spray, cranberries. What kind of consumer drinks this? Slightly well off, in the know. What are they into? Detox, purification.

The minimal presentation, subdued background colour and designer glasses add further accents of status and sophistication.

The dew on the bottle is a classic visual ploy to suggest freshness and coolness.

They’re running the emotional bank account of debits (gin) and credits (detox via cranberry drink). All of us are faced with choices that are both positive and negative – we may buy fair-trade coffee and then use sugar about whose origins we know nothing.

The ad uses a simple double meaning (the gin and cranberry combination drink and the cranberry as hangover cure after the gin) to make us feel clever because we ‘get it’. But it also successfully conveys a ‘have your cake and eat it’ message.

Metaphorical upgrade message with some status and power cues in it. It’s deliberately designed to draw you in – ‘I get the gag’. Effective advertising has a mixture of both rational and emotional.

The two images mimic the child’s puzzle of ‘Spot the 10 differences’. The ‘upgrades’ range from flipflops and cocktail, to a tan and a cleavage.

The musclebound fanning hunk is curiously asexual – more like the eunuch in a harem. This is an archetype. If I have status then I get one of those and they look after me – it’s like the butler or the porter.

There is a diffuse, lightly sexual atmosphere, nothing too naughty, because this is aimed at a teen audience (and appeared in a teen magazine). The models don’t wear much clothing, but the young woman’s eye is caught by someone outside of the picture, not muscle man who is politely looking away.

The image is deliberately cheesy, having a laugh at itself, which is a large part of its appeal. After all, flogging a tampon which is more or less like all the other brands in the market is hard work.