This month Journal Media launched Noteworthy, a website which funds investigative journalism based on suggestions from the public. Here at MediaHQ we’ve taken a closer look at the new platform.
Noteworthy is a new community-driven investigative journalism project that relies on crowdfunding. It’s a simple model. The site invites the public to submit story ideas which they think deserve deeper coverage. The Noteworthy team will then use those ideas to create proposals, figuring out how best to tell those stories and how much they will cost to produce. These proposals are put on the site and the community can choose to fund projects they want.
This break from the traditional editorial approach is in part due to the challenges media companies face to support investigative journalism. Such in-depth reporting is both expensive and time-consuming and so often falls between the cracks as media outlets experience increased financial pressure. According to Adrian Acosta, chief executive of Journal Media, the goal of Noteworthy is “to build a sustainable way to resource investigations that otherwise would not be supported by existing publishing efforts or public money.
“When we read an article online, most of us don’t think about the process that went on behind the scenes and culminated in the piece. Nor do we put a monetary value on the information we are receiving by reading it… Our aim is to build the understanding of content cost and value by involving the audience in the journalistic process.”
This approach has coincided with what Ken Foxe, the editor of Noteworthy, describes as a “culture of experimentation that is going on within the journalism community.” Faced with the problem of financing labour intensive journalism, media outlets have begun to explore new ways to tell important stories. Among such examples, Ken cites the success of “De Correspondent in the Netherlands, Krautreporter in Germany and The Ferret in Scotland.” While all the aforementioned examples rely on some form of crowdfunding or public participation, Noteworthy differs in that the public directly crowdfund specific proposals.
The new site’s tagline reads: “We want to help people understand how Ireland works, and why it sometimes doesn’t work the way it should.” A quick glance at the site, still in its Beta version, reveals a number of the projects Noteworthy will cover. Among the proposals that are fully funded are investigations into the mental health crisis in the Defence Forces, the lack of regulation of slot machine gambling and the inability of councils to put a stop to properties being used exclusively on sites like Airbnb.
While the scheme has received backing from Google’s Digital News Innovation fund, the intention is for the site to ultimately run entirely from public donations. Early signs for Noteworthy are positive and, according to Foxe, the site has already raised over €8,000 in funding during its first week. While Foxe accepts “there is a lot more work to do…to convince even more people that we are going to be doing a type of journalism that is worth paying for,” it is nonetheless a promising beginning to a brave new world of investigative journalism.