New Internationalist (NI) is an independent, non-profit, publishing co-operative, based in Oxford, United Kingdom. Predominantly known for its monthly independent magazine, it describes itself as existing to "cover stories the mainstream media sidestep and provide alternative perspectives on today's global critical issues." It covers social and environmental issues through its magazine, books and digital platforms.
New Internationalist magazine has existed for more than 40 years and currently is the largest magazine of its type in circulation in the United Kingdom. It has won the Utne Independent Press Award for "Best International Coverage" eight times, most recently in 2013 and an Amnesty International UK Media Awards 2012 award in the consumer magazine category as well as being recognised by the United Nations for its "outstanding contribution to world peace and development". In March 2017, New Internationalist published its 500th issue.
Originally, New Internationalist magazine was co-sponsored by Oxfam, Christian Aid and the Cadbury and Rowntree trusts. The magazine is now funded through subscriptions, advertisements, and product sales.
New Internationalist has produced films, books and other materials for various United Nations and related bodies concerned with world development. The book publisher Myriad Editions merged with New Internationalist in 2017.
New Internationalist runs a number of mail-order outlets for NGOs, charities and campaigning organisations. These include Amnesty International UK, Friends of the Earth UK and the Ethical Shop in the United Kingdom; and the New Internationalist North America shop in the United States of America and Canada.
New Internationalist Magazine was launched as a monthly magazine in 1973. Its forerunner was The Internationalist, sent to members of the student development organisation Third World First, since renamed People & Planet.
It was set up with financial help from two UK NGOs, Oxfam and Christian Aid, who wanted to encourage more people to understand the processes of "development" by publishing a monthly magazine to discuss and debate development issues in an accessible way. They formed a new publishing company, Devopress, with a subvention of £50,000 for the period 1973–76. Devopress comprised three Christian Aid directors and three from Oxfam. The board took a lively interest in the editorial and marketing of the magazine, although the editorial line was independent.
Early issues of New Internationalist magazine included a feature on the Tan-Zam railway in Tanzania, interviews with President Kaunda of Zambia and Bishop Helder Camara in Brazil, and features on Vietnam, drought in the Sahel, and the legacy of Che Guevara. It was an issue of New Internationalist magazine, in August 1973, that first drew attention to the irresponsible marketing of baby milk in the Third World by multinational companies.
New Internationalist magazine published articles about all of these topics. It aimed to offer readers "a radical analysis of rich-poor world relationships, looking critically at the effects of aid programmes, for example, and providing a refreshing alternative to the mainstream development and news channels, and mainstream media".
New Internationalist came close to bankruptcy when postal charges almost doubled in 1975. The publisher was rescued by funding from groups including Cadbury's and Rowntree's trusts, the Methodist church in the UK, Community Aid Abroad in Australia and Oxfam-Quebec in Canada.
The magazine was central to the group's activities, and contributed income through the subscriptions. But clearly more funds were needed to safeguard the future until it became self-supporting. In 1974 the group had been commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to produce a kit of materials to mark World Population Year. This was highly successful, earning income for the group, and the NI team looked for more work in this area. In the following years press' kits were produced for the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Environment Programme and the UN Children's Fund. Other projects, including participation in BBC television's Global Report series, enhanced the reputation of the New Internationalist magazine and team.
Meanwhile, the Devopress company's connection with the New Internationalist was coming to an end. In 1978 the directors agreed on a further three years' funding, but the following year Devopress decided to pay the rest off in a lump sum. The financial link with Christian Aid and Oxfam was severed, but both agencies remained close to the New Internationalist company and continued to show their support in a number of ways.
Fortunately, by this time the magazine was thriving. The promotional effort had always been geared towards gaining subscriptions on standing order (and later direct debit). As many other publications foundered, partly because of their reliance on news-stand distribution, the NI began to look more solid.
Several innovations had taken place in the magazine. In its early days, a wide range of subjects was covered in each issue. But in 1976 this changed. The idea of a part-work emerged, and each month's edition was devoted to one particular subject (for example Islam or World Food) to give the reader a comprehensive guide and analysis.
The magazine has been redesigned several times, most recently in April 2000. It moved to full-colour in 1993. Although its left-wing, Libertarian socialist-leaning editorial line has remained broadly unchanged – it is non-party political and committed to radical change within and between rich and poor countries – the approach has been modified over the years. The NI nowadays is less Eurocentric and reflects broader concerns with environmental, gender and cultural angles in addition to social, economic and political ones. The magazine aims to reflect the views and concerns of its overseas subscribers as well as those in the UK. There is considerable emphasis on finding women contributors and writers and photographers from the South.
The use of the term 'Third World' – more or less unknown when the magazine started – is debated now and discarded by some. "Majority World" and "the South" have become more widespread. 'Development' and 'sustainable development' similarly are contentious to some people – too long to go into the debates here – but the magazine still uses them as useful shorthand phrases. Reflecting this change, the magazine has also altered the strapline, which now reads: "the people, the ideas, the action in the fight for global justice". In the NI today there is close identification with the issues and challenges people face, wherever they happen to live – the notion of one world or global village.
Some magazines are specially produced to tie in with campaigns. There have been issues on East Timor, Western Sahara, Cambodia, Burma, Fair trade (Coffee, Bananas and Cocoa), Homelessness, Jubilee 2000 and UN Sanctions on Iraq.
Another major change in the NI has been structural. When it started, the company operated as a conventional hierarchy, albeit with much sharing and teamwork. In 1976 a more co-operative approach was adopted and developed over the years so that, although legally it was a limited company owned by the original shareholders, Peter and Lesley Adamson, the NI operated as a collective, with decision-making shared by all members on an equal footing. Equal pay came in 1987. Voinea, Anca (20 June 2013). "New Internationalist reporting on world poverty and inequality for more than 40 years". Co-operative News. Retrieved 29 March 2017. The transfer of ownership from the Adamsons came about with the creation of Advisory Trustees and Employee Trustees, with the limited company being owned by New Internationalist Trust. The Co-op's legal status was achieved in June 1992.
New Internationalist magazine has a circulation of 75,000 and offices in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, in addition to the UK operation.
In addition to publishing the magazine, since 1982 the NI team has produced its own full-colour One World Calendar in collaboration with a consortium of European aid agencies. Other one-off projects have included: a Peace Pack, a resource kit for anti-nuclear-weapons campaigners; a book to mark the end of the UN Decade for Women in 1985 and a television film for the UK's Channel 4 about women and food production in Africa (Man-Made Famine). This film provided the basis for a project to assess the use of video as a teaching device with rural women in Kenya. In 1987 they made another film, Girls Apart, which contrasted the lives of a black and a white girl in South Africa. This film was shown in Britain on BBC2.
However, the group felt it did not have the resources to make film a central part of its activities. As a result, they looked to concentrating on areas of work that could be incorporated more readily into their existing operations – design and print.
The main initiative, begun early in 1988, was to extend the range of items sold by the NI to include a One World Almanac, T-shirts, mugs and other goods. These made a useful contribution to the NI′s income which was ploughed back into the magazine – for example by introducing colour throughout the magazine in 1993 and switching to fully recycled paper in 1999.
In 1990, the range of products included the group's second major publication, The Food Book, which brought together recipes from around the world. There have been a further three books in this series. The NI now regularly publishes two–four titles a year, including many No-Nonsense Guides.