Its core mission is to enable good investigative content: "You can set up all kinds of institutions and do the talk but unless you produce great stories that actually shock and amaze you're not going to really take off," Grey tells Journalism.co.uk.
"Nothing is ruled out. We want to make good ideas happen. This is to support things that are not being done."
As outlined in an open letter, published on Journalism.co.uk on Monday, a group of the UK's leading investigative journalists have officially announced a new rolling fund 'that will aim to help provide the initial cash required for the kind of risky, challenging reporting and film-making for which there is a crying demand, but few sponsors'.
"This not-for-profit venture will not compete directly with established media, but will instead provide the seeds from which the big stories can grow," it was stated in the letter, signed by those involved in the project: Antony Barnett, Martin Bright, Heather Brooke, Peter Barron, Nick Davies, Nick Fielding, Misha Glenny, Stephen Grey (editor), Mark Hollingsworth, Andrew Jennings, Philip Knightley, Paul Lashmar, David Leigh and Jason Lewis.
"We ask anyone interested in joining the debate to pledge their support or partnership, as well as to offer their views about what should be brought to public light - and isn't," they said.
The structure is still being debated at this stage, but Grey predicts it will move fast 'in the next few weeks'.
Some elements are already defined: "It's a rolling fund to recoup some of the costs for investors. We've agreed where we want to target support at the moment: at a local [UK] level; and, secondly, for people trying to do international projects," says Grey.
"We toyed with the idea of creating something rather like a publisher, like ProPublica, but at the moment we think the best experiment is to be more of a production house to support people and to get things published wherever they want."
Grey stresses that the names involved - other supporters and advisers include Richard Brooks, Julia Barron, Jeremy Dear, Adrian Monck, Paul Evans, John Kampfner, Tom Loosemore, Vaughan Smith, Jan Tomalin, Jonathan Ungoed-Thomas - are not looking to fund their own work: "It's not really about supporting ourselves."
Those working in journalism at a national level can already sell ideas fairly easily, he said.
Rather, he emphasises, it's about helping 'the people who are getting into the business who haven't got a track record of pursuing these kind of stories'.
As their letter identified, 'a growing number of news outlets are increasingly putting emphasis on entertainment, on rapidly-delivered and recycled news rather than the investigation and discovery of what the public wants and needs to know'.
The fund, Grey tells Journalism.co.uk, is designed to offer support to journalists who have leads they wish to pursue, but are uncertain of the end-product.
"We're looking to take the risk out of it. If you have a great story and you stand it up, it isn't that difficult to get it published. The idea is more to fund things that don't [immediately] work - the things that work can sell themselves."
Grey is encouraging 'anyone' to sign up and pledge support. They're interested in people outside journalism too: 'lawyers, accountants, translators - anyone who thinks they could be of benefit', he adds.
"It's a great niche for all kinds of experiments. It will be interesting to see what they come up with," he says.
Related links on Journalism.co.uk:
- 'Fifth estate' models could aid investigative journalism in the UK, says Paul Lashmar (19/05/09)
- Very little serious investigative journalism going on in UK, says Nick Fielding (11/05/09)
- What would a UK-based ProPublica look like? (6/04/09)
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