Warning: One word repeatedly used in this post will offend some people. I’m not one of them, and presumably neither is the main audience for what I propose.
Since August 2014, after acquiring domain journalism.wtf, I have pondered but not acted on launching a site that spotlights the worst—and occasionally the best—online news gathering. The question: Is there really a market for such a thing, and one that would assure financial sustainability? You can help me decide whether to proceed, and I anticipate most responses will come via social networks rather than comments on my personal site.
Next week, Kickstarter will move all new projects to another payment system—replacing Amazon with Stripe. As soon as that happens, I may Kickstart what tentatively will be called “Journalism? What the Fuck?” The campaign, if initiated, will have two goals: To gauge interest in the website project and to raise funds.
On Oct. 5, 2014, I drafted the Kickstarter pitch that follows, with slight revision early this afternoon. My purpose today: Present the idea and pitch to get some response before moving ahead on Kickstarter. Why? I’m not convinced there is sustainable audience for a rag swiping dirty news reporting day after day. Would you read such a site as journalism.wtf? Support it by subscription or other contribution? I’d rather not Kickstart than sink during the campaign. My goal here isn’t to assess viability of the campaign but the project crowdfunding would kickstart. You are the first test, Kickstarter the next. Your response would be hugely appreciated. With that introduction, here we go:
Journalism? What the Fuck?
Stop the Zombie Apocalypse!
When I first ventured onto the World Wide Web 21 years ago, the oft-stated rule was this: “Don’t believe anything you read on the Internet”. Whoa, do attitudes in 2015 differ from 1994. Consider how bloggers and journalists report rumors—like turning anonymous forum posts into scorching news stories—as fact. Seems like everyone believes everything on the Internet; well, at the least, news professionals who should know better.
In August 2014, I registered domain journalism.wtf, with plans to launch site “Journalism? What the Fuck?”, or something like that depending on where the punctuation places. I am a long-time journalist who is fed up with the piss-poor quality of online news reporting, particularly the sector which I cover—technology.
Zombie apocalypse is the metaphor for news gathering in the 2010s. Mindless bloggers and reporters feed off the Google “free economy”. They gorge pageviews by posting stories that quote vague, anonymous sources as hard news. But there isn’t enough advertising revenue to sustain zombies’ hunger, so they aggregate other news stories and write rumors based on the slightest whisper.
If that description sums up your view of online news reporting, I encourage you to support “Journalism? What the Fuck?” Its three main objectives:
1. Expose stories and sites that report news irresponsibly.
2. Spotlight responsible news reporting.
3. Generate discussion.
Early days, I will be the only contributor. But the plan is to rapidly expand the number of “watchdogs”—newshounds, if you prefer—who identify news gatherers and posts that report responsibly and, more importantly, those who don’t. Journalism.wtf is a crowdfunded and crowdsourced project. Success will depend on broad participation.
My initial goal is $20,000, and I would like to generate much more startup funds. Some money will go to supporting me, so that I can make “Journalism? What the Fuck?” a full-time project, and, of course, there are startup costs creating and maintaining the site. The first stage will be a straightforward WordPress operation. But a forum must follow as soon as possible, to facilitate discussion among news gatherers and their readers/listeners/viewers.
I will do some initial promotion, but little else. I want to see how the community of news consumers and producers respond, which hopefully will reveal if there is real interest in the project. Maybe there is little enough or lots. Your contribution or other participation will tell me, and others.
The are no perks, although everyone donating $1 or more will receive a free copy of my ebook Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers. I can’t judge sincere interest in the project by teasing contributions with perks. You want “Journalism? What the Fuck?” or you don’t.
Photo Credit: Jason Parrish