Public interest journalism funded by the public

Thinking aloud – First principles and structure for


Over the weeks and months to come I’m going to float lots of ideas and proposals.
I want to think aloud and write regularly about what we’re thinking, why we’re thinking it, what we’re planning, what we’re doing behind the scenes.
From the start I want this to be an open source organisation in more than just the technical softwarey sense.
I want to invite feedback, rebuttals, suggestions and brainstorming from potential members.
That means a lot of what I’ll suggest will change. It will be a lot like a horseshoe at the blacksmith — beaten and tempered into the right strength and shape to handle a good old gallop once it’s fitted to the horse.
That’s why I think we need to create a robust structure that can handle some rocky patches and withstand the various slings and arrows that will come our way.
It also needs to avoid being hostage to one person’s ideas or personal situation. It needs to have a clear mandate agreed by its supporters and an independent governance structure able to keep the organisation healthy and going in the right direction.
That structure has to include mechanisms for dealing with conflict and generate confidence among members, donors and readers that it’s more than just another one-man band on a mission.
That’s why I’m suggesting the Trust’s board be made up of several (at least three) experienced media industry figures able to ensure remains a non-partisan, transparent, accountable and financially responsible organisation dedicated to public interest journalism funded by the public. I don’t think the founding editor should be on the board and should be held accountable to the board. The board would have the right to hire/fire the founding editor. I welcome your suggestions for people who would make good trustees.
I also think should have an Editorial Advisory Board or council that includes members of the community, legal experts, journalists and members of the site. I think it should meet regularly to set the editorial objectives and priorites of It should also review the performance and quality of’s output. It should have extensive means of consulting members of the and members of the public.
I welcome your thoughts on potential members, ways of operation, ways to consult and formats for consultation. For example. Should there be a regular meeting? Should it produce regular reports? Should it agree a list of priorities? How should it build that list?
Or should the Editorial board and Trust board be one and the same?
There are plenty of examples to look at. Here’s the Texax Tribune board 
Feel free to comment below or to email me directly at
About these ads

Author: Bernard Hickey

I'm Bernard Hickey. I'm a financial journalist who has worked for wire services, for newspapers and for online publishers. Until January 2008 I was the Head of Digital at Fairfax Media in New Zealand. I have previously been the Managing Editor of the Independent Financial Review, the BusinessDay editor for the Dominion Post and the founding editor of I love the business of publishing online, both from an editorial and commercial point of view. I'm currently working as the editor of I begin as founding editor of on November 1.

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