Next Tuesday, The Journalism Foundation will host a gala event to benefit the Foundation's work supporting free and ethical journalism around the world.
The gala aims to raise money to support our global projects, including the establishment of a new college of journalism in Tunisia, and a programme to train young journalists in South Sudan.
The Journalism Foundation was set up in 2011 by Simon Kelner, former editor of The Independent newspaper, and is backed by the Lebedev family. In September last year I began work as the editor of the Foundation's website. Alongside the usual editorial tasks, the role also involves working closely with the Foundation's projects including, most recently, helping redesign and relaunch a local website in Stoke-on-Trent, travelling to Tunisia to help manage a workshop for journalists in the wake of the Arab Spring and helping to set up the Foundation's new projects in India and Tanzania.
Everyone in the organisation is similarly engaged, bringing some kind of practical journalistic or logistical skills to the mix to help with the work we do. In a sense we are all project officers for the Foundation, helping get journalistic endeavours off the ground as well fulfilling our official job titles.
The event on Tuesday night will be the Foundation's first fundraiser and has been put together with donations from across the media and entertainment world. Money will be raised through the auction of 'money-can't-buy' lots, which will include such enticements as lunch with Gillian Anderson cooked by Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's, tickets and flights to the see the world premiere in New Zealand of The Hobbit, and dinner for eight cooked in the winning bidder's own home by Mark Hix with Blur star Alex James overseeing the cheese course. Other lots include a spa day with Nancy Dell'Olio at Champneys, a dress designed by Alice Temperley, and a collection of cakes from James Middleton's cake company.
In writing this feature, I got in touch with Evgeny Lebedev to ask him about why he was interested in starting up a charity geared towards the support of ethical journalism. He said: "Press freedom is a matter very close to my heart. Having grown up in Russia, I know how a restricted press can be detrimental to both individual and public life.
"The Journalism Foundation is less than a year old, but is already building a reputation for fulfilling the old maxim of thinking globally while acting locally.
"It is my hope that others will feel as passionately as I do, that quality journalism is worthy of our support. I know that the Foundation's success will serve to remind people that contrary to the prevailing opinion in some quarters, journalism can be and almost always is a force for good."
After the fundraiser the real work of the Foundation will begin anew. The first project we aim to support is an endeavor in South Sudan which will train local journalists to film stories on their mobile phones. The films they produce will be edited into news packages and screened around the country using portable cinemas. In South Sudan media is still relatively scarce - this project aims to broaden communication in the world's youngest country.
Another new project we are supporting is a newspaper in Tanzania. The paper, Kwanza Jamii - the translation from Swahili means "Community First" - was established as part of a charitable organisation in 2010, and it has taken its vocation very seriously. Based in Njombe the newspaper serves readers in a sizeable and remote catchment area - the paper circulates anywhere within 60 miles of its main office. The Journalism Foundation aims to support Kwanza Jamii as it develops an online edition, and our ultimate ambition is to help drive the paper towards profitability.
After running a successful training course earlier this year to Tunisian journalists we are now working towards establishing a permanent journalism faculty in the country. We hope that our support will help journalism grow as Tunisia continues to take giant strides towards freedom and democracy.
As an organisation, The Journalism Foundation exists to demonstrate the value of journalism in strengthening democracy throughout the world. Of the gala next week Simon Kelner, our chief executive, said: "Our mission is to develop free and ethical journalism by supporting media projects that have a positive effect on people's lives. We hope that the generosity of those attending the evening will help us fund the projects that further these aims."
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