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Spotlight On | Una Murphy, Co-founder of VIEWdigital: "With mainstream news increasingly centralising to increase profit, accountable, accessible, on the ground journalism is important now more than ever."

 

Una Murphy is co-founder of Northern Irish social-affairs journalism platform VIEWdigital. She has had a prolific career in both broadcast and print media, producing and directing current affairs, factual and documentary programmes for UTV, TG4, RTE and the BBC and reporting for titles including The Daily Mirror and The Irish Times. Una also has strong roots in the non-profit and charity space, having worked on media campaigns for a range of organisations including Save the Children Northern Ireland and CARDI, The Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland.

In this IMPRESS Spotlight interview, Una highlights the value of social enterprise as a business model for news, emphasises the importance of local journalism as a tool to raise awareness and affect change around live social issues in the community and shares why VIEWdigital became one of first publishers to join IMPRESS.


> You co-founded VIEW back in 2013 – what influenced you to set up a non-profit community news organisation?

As co-founder alongside Brian Pelan, I was interested in exploring social enterprise as a business model and after attending a specialist programme, we established VIEWdigital as a Community Interest Company (CIC) in June 2013.

Each year we have to send a report to the Community Interest Company regulator detailing how we benefit the community in Northern Ireland through our social affairs journalism and how we involve stakeholders. This sets us apart from many mainstream news organisations that do not have the same level of responsibility to the community.

> VIEWdigital regularly features guest editors and dedicates full editions to one important issue of the day impacting the people of Belfast. Which stories are you most proud of, or most epitomise what the title was set up to do?

We amplify important social issues through our journalism. Having regular guest editors provides us with expertise, as well as a range of people affected by a particular issue, who trust us to tell their stories.

We regularly look out for campaigners creating an impact and seek to develop relationships which will inform our journalism.

Some past editions that we are really proud of include our edition on victims and survivors of the conflict in Northern Ireland, for which we were grateful to Alan McBride from the WAVE trauma centre for taking on the guest editor role, to guide us on reporting a very contentious issue in Northern Ireland. The guest editor of an edition of VIEW which looked at the lack of provision for women suffering from maternal mental health, Lindsay Robinson, used the print edition of the magazine as a lobbying tool very effectively, an example of the real world power of our journalism. More recently, the huge story of the impact of Covid 19 on Care Homes covered in an issue with guest editor Julie-Ann McNally, another community campaigner, was one that stands out for its importance in covering a live issue facing some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

The full archive of VIEW magazine editions is available to read online, with print editions available in libraries across Northern Ireland. 

> Community reporting is at the heart of what you do. From your perspective, what is the significance of community-based journalism?

It offers journalists like myself and Brian the opportunity to partner with people in our community to highlight important social issues to make it a better place for everyone.

> What opportunities and challenges do you see for VIEW and other local news outlets in the next few years?

There is more recognition of the independent community journalism sector and I think IMPRESS regulation helps with this. The challenge is finding a diversity of revenue streams and a suitable business model to support our journalism.

> What does accountability mean to you in the context of journalism?

With mainstream news increasingly centralising to increase profit, accountable, accessible, on the ground journalism is important now more than ever.

> How can independent media platforms be better supported?

It could be supported by funders, both local and central government as well as philanthropists, who understand that the independent community journalism sector can provide an important platform to promote the discussion of public affairs.

> What encouraged you to embrace approved regulation and what has been your experience of being an IMPRESS member?

I worked in broadcasting before co-founding VIEWdigital and had been a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland, so I was very determined that post-Leveson there was a regulator who could help ensure VIEWdigital maintains our high standards for professional, non-sensationalist journalism on social issues and ensures “quality independent journalism flourishes in a digital age.” We are proud that VIEW magazine was one of the first publications to join IMPRESS.


Una Murphy is co-founder of VIEWdigital and coordinates the publisher's digital and broadcast media workshops. She has produced and directed current affairs/factual/documentary programmes for UTV, TG4, RTE and BBC, reported for The Daily Mirror and The Irish Times, and worked on media campaigns for Save the Children Northern Ireland and CARDI, The Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland. She has also taught journalism courses at various universities and colleges, including Coventry University.