New Internationalist turns to its vast reader base for support as it moulds itself into a new kind of media company.
by Nikhil Sreekandan
For more than 40 years now, this Oxford-based publication has been the torchbearer stalwart of the global south – exposing injustices and involving marginalized voices – a trusted and progressive publication that looks beyond borders.
First printed in 1973, New Internationalist is a magazine of human rights, social justice and radical politics. In the words of Noam Chomsky, it has been at the “forefront of offering an alternative to the mainstream media’s neoliberal hegemony for decades’.
With ample space for investigative long-form journalism, over the years, New Internationalist’s flagship magazine has produced some major works.
In 2017, New Internationalist’s exclusive report from inside Diego Garcia – America’s highly secretive military base in the central Indian Ocean, uncovered the shockingly exploitative labour conditions forced on many of the workers there.
In the latest issue, New Internationalist looks at how peacemakers can end the war in Nigeria, against the notorious rebel group Boko Haram.
Though unchanged in its commitment, with the latest issue of New Internationalist, plans that have been afoot for an entire year come to fruition as the flagship magazine sees it most radical revamp in its 45-year history.
From September 2018 (NI515), New Internationalist’s flagship print magazine will come out six times a year, with each issue doubling in size to 84 pages.
This makeover follows a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign in 2017 that transformed New Internationalist from a democratic co-operative into a multi-stakeholder co-operative, co-owned by their workers and over 3,600 investors.
New Internationalist co-editor, Hazel Healey is of the opinion that they had to take such a brave decision, “It felt like we had to do something big. With print media in decline our subscriptions had taken a hit, but at the same time, our reach was growing online in ways that our founders couldn’t have imagined when they planned the first magazine 45 years ago. So it was crunch time, and rather than cut back we chose to do something ambitious: invest in our journalism.”
“Issuing reader shares was the natural way to do it. We’ve always relied on our subscribers and stood on our own two feet – never been propped up by a benefactor or hedge-fund owner. It made sense to call on our supporters, who share our values. Plus we’ve always been a workers co-op so it wasn’t such a major culture shift.”
The crowdfunding campaign saw New Internationalist set a target of £500,000 and 36 days to do it in. They ended up with over £700,000 and 3,600 new co-owners, with the vast majority giving £100 or less.
The new stakeholder co-op gives reader-owners stewardship of the New Internationalist mission and they can make sure that the publication stays on track with their journalism and focus.
In today’s world, where there is a crisis of trust in dominant press and media, Yohann Koshy, co-editor at New Internationalist believes that publications which have a particular political mission and high standard of fact-checking have become more important. So instead of pretending to be ‘impartial’, which is often a liberal fantasy, one can make more verifiable arguments.
Apart from doubling in size and its aesthetic redesign, the revamped magazine has a number of major changes that are taking shape from its September 2018 issue including long-read for immersive reading experience, a four-page cartoon that brings lesser-known moments of ‘Third World’ history to life and other tidbits such as an irreverent advice column, dispensing wisdom on ethical dilemmas like cultural appropriation and whether you should take kids on protests with you.
A media stronghold like New Internationalist, taking the lesser-travelled path of a media co-op can only be encouraging for its vast reader-base and it allows the publication to reach an even broader audience worldwide, especially the young readers.
The title will be distributed directly to New Internationalist subscribers, as well as being available through WHSmiths and independent bookshops in the UK.