Crowdfunding: just one option to save independent journalism


The media crackdown in Turkey is a major story that should make us appreciate the countless unsung reporters and editors worldwide who struggle every day to practice good journalism, no matter the stakes, note Danforth Austin, a former vice president of The Wall Street Journal and a member of the Press Start advisory board, and Barbara Frye, Press Start’s lead editor:

Two such journalists are Jean-Chrysostome Kijana (left) and Wendy Funes (above). Kijana, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, edits and oversees eastern Congo’s first online newspaper, where he reports on the near-enslavement of the region’s miners and the violence of an ongoing insurgency. Funes, for her part, reports on human rights abuses, security, and corruption in Honduras — issues that the country’s beleaguered press often avoids.

According to Freedom House, 2015 was the worst year for press freedom in over a decade. It estimates that only 13 percent of the world’s population lives in countries “where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.”

To their credit, organizations such as the Open Society Foundations and the National Endowment for Democracy, which is mostly funded by the US government, have supported efforts to make independent news media self-sustaining. But even the largest civil-society groups cannot address every need, they write for Project Syndicate:

Instead, those of us who care about the fate of independent journalism should do our part to support it, by any means. One way is through crowdfunding platforms like Press Start, with which we are both affiliated. Press Start connects funders in rich countries directly to vetted, independent journalists in poor countries, starting with Armenia, the Congo, Honduras, Lebanon and Macedonia.

“The crowdfunding model is just one option, and by experimenting with it, we hope to inspire others to bring new ideas to the table,” they add. “No single funding solution is going to save independent journalism.”


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