A leading independent publisher of books and magazines on sustainable development, New Internationalist Publications is a vehicle for less heard voices.
As a not-for-profit worker co-operative, the publisher has become one of the most trusted publications reporting on world poverty and inequality. This year the award-winning publisher celebrated its 40th anniversary. James Rowland, who has been a member since 1985, says the publisher switched to a co-operative a few years after it had been created, once the employees realised they should be practicing what they preached. “We think that this switch is one of the main reasons why we are still here after 40 years,” he says.
Becoming an equal-pay co-operative was a difficult decision to take, explains Mr Rowland, as the highest paid had their salaries frozen so that the others would catch up. Ever since, all decisions have been taken collectively, between the 18 members of the worker co-op.
Hazel Healy, one of the five editors, says the success of the magazine, a flagship of New Internationalist Publications, was determined by its independence. New Internationalist (NI) has more than 45,000 subscribers worldwide.
“Our magazine has quite a hopeful style, we are very straight up and honest when it comes to what you believe in and why — with us you really know what you get. We are truly independent,” she says.
Ms Healy adds that through their stories, NI writers portray people in the global South not as victims, but as active participants. “We always try to provide a narrative for an alternative. We also tell the stories that matter regardless of what’s in fashion, way ahead of other publications. We had written about the financial crisis two years before it happened. We like to think of ourselves as campaign partners to radical organisations who are working on controversial issues,” she says.
NI is also trying to encourage people to report on issues affecting them by providing them with the information they need to go and find out more themselves.
Throughout decades, NI has had a bold approach to controversial issues and has managed to deliver a few stories that have led to changes in policy making. In August 1973 it published a story on baby food that led to an international campaign that produced the UN International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes.
As a worker co-operative, the magazine was also involved in promoting the International Year of Co-operatives. Last year, the magazine’s July issue was dedicated to the IYC. The issue sold over 1,000 copies at newsstands, being the best-selling issue of 2012 of the subscription-based magazine. “It showed the public was interested in co-operatives. It might seem an unfashionable topic, but people are ready to learn more about it,” says Hazel.
The co-operative model has proven to be a successful model for NI and could be part of the solution to the media crisis, thinks Hazel. She says the model might be a way to survive the crisis, but that “ultimately we will need to cross a new business model able to survive a digital age”.
In a globalised world with inequality continuing to grow, the NI continues to empower people, not simply in developing states, but all over the world. By reporting on issues affecting the poorest 20 per cent in the world, the NI has become one of the most trusted global development magazines. Itself a co-operative where all members are equal, NI is a true campaigner for equality within nations.