Driven by the same ideals as the team behind the UK's recently launched Investigations Fund, and taking inspiration from US crowd-funded project Spot.Us, the Foundation for Public Interest Journalism in Australia is seeking donations and support to enable quality journalism on a variety of platforms.
The Foundation's first project will be to establish a website through which members of the public and journalists can come together to organise journalistic projects without the intervention of large media brands.
Among the journalists and academics involved with the Foundation are Professor Michael Bromley, head of the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland; Jonathan Green, editor of Crikey; and Chris Graham, co-founder and editor of the National Indigenous Times newspaper.
Margaret Simons, freelance journalist, author and lecturer at Swinburne University, is interim chair of the board. Journalism.co.uk got in touch with a few questions.
What's your timescale on this? When do you foresee launching the website and the first grants?
[MS] We hope to launch the website early next year and be enabling journalism more or less straight away after that.
Practically speaking, how will it work: how often will you meet? Are you going to have members dedicated to this full-time?
The board will meet less frequently than a number of sub committees. However, we will be in constant contact: there are numerous ways such things are possible these days. I will work on the project part-time and, if our fundraising is successful, we hope to employ an administrative assistant at least part time.
What kind of propositions in Australia do you want to support? Individuals or organisations?
We want to explore new models for supporting journalism, with the emphasis on bringing public and journalists together without the necessity of 'Big Media' in the middle of the relationship.
That does not mean we exclude big media. They may well choose to be part of our experiment, and we anticipate partnering with a number of smaller media outlets as publisher partners.
It's interesting to see people like Crikey's Jonathan Green involved and the comparison to Spot.Us: are you focusing your attention on online enterprises?
Yes, because they create opportunities for audience interactivity, and because they are full of potential.
Our focus however, is on getting the journalism done and making it available, rather than being wedded to any particular platform for its dissemination. We are focused on the content - quality journalism.
How has the 'crisis in journalism' over the past year (if you think there is one) particularly affected Australia? Has it lowered standards of investigative work in the newsroom; or was it already declining in standard, given the dominance of two large newspaper groups?
All of the above, but over the last few years both of our major newspaper groups - Fairfax and News Ltd - have made many journalists redundant and have been forced into multiple cut backs that have impacted on the quality of the journalism.
As is the situation elsewhere in the world, the business models that have supported journalism are all either under strain or broken. In particular, Fairfax newspapers have depended in the past on classified advertising - which is all but disappearing online.
We have lost other outlets for good journalism, such as the Channel Nine Sunday programme, and the Bulletin magazine, following the take over of the Packer empire by private equity companies, and the death of the 'dominant proprietor' Kerry Packer.
Find out more about the Foundation at the Content Makers blog.
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