Journalism.org.nz is a not-for-profit trust dedicated to creating and supporting public interest journalism.
It is building a platform for the public and journalists to work together to investigate, probe, challenge and hold to account governments, companies and special interests.
Journalism.org.nz is a non-partisan and that will employ journalists to gather information, ask questions and publish news, analysis, investigations and commentary in the public interest.
It is funded by members of the public who want to support this kind of journalism.
A new and in many ways exciting era for the fourth estate has just begun.
The traditional venues and business models underpinning journalism are being dismantled and recreated. The ‘rivers of gold’ of display and classified advertising that once subsidised the reporting of news in newspapers and magazines and on radio and television are being sucked out and squirted into the coffers of Internet companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo and TradeMe. None of these companies need to build news organisations to capture those advertising revenues.
As these advertising revenues leach away in tandem with readers and viewers, the news gathering resources deployed by these traditional outlets are being gutted and restructured to focus on high sugar/low protein news. That means more entertainment, crime, sport and human interest news, and less news about government, education, health, the economy, business, the environment and social welfare.
Strong news organisations become weak and vulnerable to being taken over by special interests or simply limit their coverage to the high sugar/low protein news that sells and rates, but never truly satisfies.
The ultimate result is a hollowed out fourth estate with little investigative, accountability and enterprise journalism. It becomes a vehicle for churnalism, celebrity journalism and the views of special interests.
This doesn’t sound exciting or appetising and it’s not.
A new wave of journalism and debate is bubbling up from the grass roots, thanks to the now very low barriers to publish. The advent of blogging software, Facebook, Twitter, smartphones and iPads has put the power to publish in the hands of almost all citizens in New Zealand.
The opportunities for crowdsourcing of news, data, comment and analysis are enormous. The costs of launching a website and publicising it are the lowest in history.
That’s where a not-for-profit journalism site such as Journalism.org.nz comes in. A model is emerging in the United States, Europe and Australia where philanthropists seed the creation of such sites, which are then supported by memberships and donations.
There are many examples. The best I’ve seen is propublica.org in America, while closer to home there is the Australian-based GlobalMail.org
We plan to offer a range of memberships where members of the public who want to support public interest journalism can donate regular amounts per month to pay for journalists to gather, write and publish on Journalism.org.nz and through other media.