Advertising, General, Journalism

How do we ’save’ journalism? By entering the spirit of this new, post-capitalist age and making transparency our No1 goal. We have to leave the ‘era of sunlight’ behind us…

It was this headline on BuzzMachine that got me a-thinking; that our Arianna was about to ’save’ journalism…

It is an interesting piece in the sense that it chimes well with the current debate about ‘not-for-profit’ business models; that, perhaps, the future of decent journalism might – for now – have to rest with the generosity of a donor or two.

Or at least as we wait for new ‘Foundations’ to spring up to fund various future news organs in the manner of The Scott Trust. News organs, one presumes, that don’t look like the MEN, the Reading Bi-Weekly Chron or the Stockport Express – none of which much tickle the Scott Trust’s fancy these days.

‘But now the indefatigable founder of The Huffington Post comes riding to the rescue with a new, not-for-profit arm to fund investigative journalism out of foundation and public donations. It starts with $1.75 million…’ writes Jeff.

The problem, of course, comes (a) when that first tranche of $1.75 million runs out and (b) if the subsequent results of the investigations concerned are deemed to be in any way skewed – to the left in Huffington’s case; to the right if, say, the Drudge Report followed suit.

And found a willing ‘donor’ in, I don’t know, Halliburton Inc.

It is, in short, not without fault. As Jeff points out; though without perhaps the force of one or two of his subsequent commenters.

But, again, to misquote Mr Shirky: ‘Nothing works, but everything might…’ So, fair play, to Ms Huffington; she’s giving it a go and – on the surface at least – keeping a roof over the head of one or two investigative journalists Stateside.

Personally, I tend to favour the more ‘bottom up’ solution that David Cohn seeks with his Spot.Us work out of San Francisco – – with its greater onus on being funded from the streets of local, neighbourhood communities, as opposed to by a distant, liberal elite.

Once again, there is evidence there of the world splitting two ways – of a bottom-up, street-funded, individual-empowered ‘answer’ to the West; and of a top-down, more corporate-enabled ‘answer’ to the East. A block that we’ve been round before…

But what is interesting is DigiDave’s take on events re TheHuffPost. He’s there, in Jeff’s comments.

And he’s right, of course. There ain’t no such thing as ‘clean’ money – be ad dollars or donor dollars, none of them come sprinkled with ‘fairy dust’

‘…. There is NO such thing as clean money.

‘You find me clean money… I’ll find you fairy dust and we will do a trade.

‘Money from advertising isn’t clean.
‘Even money from foundations isn’t clean.

‘The best we can do is be transparent.

‘By being transparent and making sure we are diverse in public money – we stand to have more accountable journalism than that which is supported by advertising (one big source of money and only semi-transparent)…

But what, for me, is fascinating is the emphasis he places on ‘transparency’… that maybe in thataway lies some sort of hope of an ad-funded model for journalism; if we can just better establish who’s paying what to whom. And for what…

It’s the same emphasis that Matthew Buckland places on ‘transparency’ here…

It’s the same emphasis that Daniel Roth placed on ‘transparency’ here…

That ‘the era of sunlight has to give way to era of pixelization; only when we give everyone the tools to see each point of data will the picture become clear…’ etc.

And for ‘each point of data’ read the exact contribution made by either donor or advertiser; how many bucks did they pump into that investigation and what are they looking for?

This is what we want; for me, this might be the start of a post-capitalist world; a new mode of thinking now that – in journalistic terms – we now own both the means of production and distribution; both now lie beneath our finger-tips; sit on our kitchen table.


It is, after all, the same thinking that underpins the current UK furore over MPs expenses… we want to see what you’re getting; where it’s going; we don’t want to be blinded by ‘the era of sunlight’ any more – we want to see for ourselves….

DigiDave’s line is worth repeating; because for me it offers a hope of a more sustainable platform for journalistic endeavour than the donor market.

‘By being transparent and making sure we are diverse in public money – we stand to have more accountable journalism than that which is supported by advertising (one big source of money and only semi-transparent)…

More ‘accountable journalism’ is surely where we should all aim to head; funded, in part, by a far more transparent and ‘accountable’ system of advertising.

And, finally, it’s a theme that you can carry onto the latest spat between AP, the aggregators, the search engines et al.

Because right at the heart of that lies a little road that AP might be somewhat loathe to go too far down. As in being rather more ‘transparent’ about just where that story came from, who was the source…

For isn’t it the person at the source of the story that needs the reward, rather than anyone who just re-nosed, re-packaged and re-hashed it on its way….? �

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