Local Journalism Project Case Study: Rayon (Ukraine)
In 2015, when the owner of the Family and Home media holding, Ivan Korsak, retired, his son Viktor decided to pivot to invest in new media. The family-owned company launched Rayon.in.ua and leveraged the spread of 3G connectivity to restructure the traditional print newspaper, magazine, and radio combination into three new digital platforms: Family and Home, the tabloid Volyn, and a network of online local media called Rayon. The takeoff of 3G opened up a larger though much more dispersed audience as remote areas that previously never had internet access were now connected. Around the same time, Ukraine’s parliament enacted a law on the “destatization” and reform of state and municipal media. Before this reform, local media were largely state-funded, which undermined their status as independent media. The goal of the law was to trigger independence and modernization in the media by removing state funding and its editorial influence.
Small towns and communities across the Volyn, Zakarpattia, and Rivne regions. The hyperlocal audience colours the products the network creates – people like to read about their neighbours. The hyperlocal news is read by people who know one another and the local area in minute detail.
Rayon has figured out a way to create, unite, and support a network of 30 local media that cover the stories and lives of communities in the Volyn, Rivne, and Zakarpattia regions.
They build communities, involve local people in editorial processes, and train journalists to overcome a serious lack of experience in the region. They also organize a summer school and camp that brings the local media community together to share and learn. They experiment with different journalism formats and revenue streams, and most recently have become known for their successful crowdfunding campaigns.
Products and distribution
An online network of hyperlocal websites, summer school training, and creative services, distributed through the newsrooms and the internet.
Rayon is a network that unites 30 local media organizations that cover the lives and stories of local communities in the Volyn, Rivne, and Zakarpattia regions of Ukraine.
The main three forms of revenue are advertising, grants, and crowdfunding. Rayon also supports local websites with technical help, like graphic design, and encourages them to offer design and content services to the larger community as a source of revenue. As for its own sustainability, Rayon does run ads, but uses business.rayon to find businesses who want to advertise to other businesses, and is careful to refuse advertisers who they feel will not fit their audience. Rayon also ran a successful round of crowdfunding, which they used to make a 10-part podcast about COVID-19.
By forging a strong relationship with the communities they serve, Rayon network members have built trust in their journalism, which they use to counter misinformation.
They are crowdfunding to support a newly launched culture vertical across sites. According to Rayon it often seems that cultural life is concentrated only in big cities, but there is a unique culture in communities, small towns and villages, and journalists rarely reach the corners of Ukraine. The site will become not only a platform for news, reports, interviews and articles on culture, but also a service media for artists and institutions to be able to communicate with their target audience.
Ask them about
Their journalism forum, the summer school, and involving the community. Editor Olena Reshotka-Rozhiii says the biggest challenge is that people in small communities don’t always have the drive to push into investigative journalism, and people all know one other, which can make it difficult to write about problems such as local corruption. It can also be hard to get legacy editors and reporters to adapt to online journalism.
In their words
“We want people to associate Rayon with the word ‘news’.”
“Our readers are our friends. This is why we organize a summer school for people who want to learn to be journalists, and we are happy that colleagues from other media often learn from what we do, and this is why we organize the largest forum for journalists in western Ukraine each year.”
“I once interviewed a grandmother. And in the end, she cried, so did I. I realized how important each of us is. We collect valuable stories of our area, tell about people that no one would have known about if not for our materials. I understand that we need to communicate with the simplest people because they are the ones who have done and are doing things that are changing the world. And they should know about them, and their stories should not lie in drawers.” (Iryna Vetlyanchuk, editor, Rayon.Lokachi)
Source for information and views in this case study: Interview with Olena Reshotka-Rozhii, editor, Rayon.in.ue.
This story is part of IPI’s Local Journalism Project. The publication of these case studies – part of IPI’s wider work mapping, networking and supporting quality innovative media serving local communities – is supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.