Credit: By Rocio Lara on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

A crowdfunded independent journalism website is planning to launch in Canada on 2 October, with two editions to increase communication between French and English Canada and a focus on investigations.

Derrick O'Keefe, an editor of the English edition of Ricochet, told there was very little awareness of what was going on between the two parts of the country because of the language barrier.

"We're hoping to establish ourselves as one of the national news sites that people really refer to," he said. "And we're hoping to establish ourselves beyond just the progressive readership."

He said there was a lack of critical journalism, particularly investigative journalism, in Canada and Ricochet was set up to fill this space, inspired by the success of media outlets like Mediapart in France.

The site has two editorial committees which "collaborate but are autonomous". The English editorial team makes its own decisions about content, he said, and while the two committees keep each other up to date with their activities, they do not have a say in what the other team publishes.

O'Keefe said that while Ricochet had "two very distinct editions", the teams would release related content at the same time, write joint editorials, and occasionally translate content.

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Another advantage of being bilingual, he said, was the opportunity to attract readership in France and other countries that do not often get news from Canada. "We're also working on making partnerships with publications over there that are like minded or that are trying similar things," he said.

Ricochet's launch date was set as the team finished raising almost $83,000 through crowdfunding, offering one-year memberships to raise the money needed to pay contributors and set up an editorial budget.

"We're still a pretty modest enterprise," he said. "We have a lot of people working for us, but most people have other full time jobs or other things they do to make most of their money, so most of our editors are either contributing editorial work for free or getting a small stipend."

We want to focus in the first year on doing the written journalism well, and phasing in the video and other online tools more slowlyDerrick O'Keefe, Ricochet
O'Keefe said they were looking at organisational funding to cover the costs of staff infrastructure, and could turn to crowdfunding again to finance specific projects.

Ricochet aims to take on a couple of permanent members of staff for each edition after its first year, but the editorial teams' current focus is to ensure the site is able to pay its contributors.

While content on the website is free to access, Ricochet also has a membership model which enables users to be more engaged with reporters, and have more input in the editorial process through polls and other features.

"As we develop more, our members will probably also have access to extra content – maybe audio, video – that we produce that the general public wouldn't have access to," he said. "We're looking at a mix of revenue streams."

While the development for additional member-only features is not yet complete, O'Keefe said the team is looking at introducing interactive elements and "special access", where readers could, for example, take part in video chats with reporters after stories were published. Another potential idea was to offer free access to events hosted by the editorial teams in their headquarter cities of Vancouver and Montreal.

While video may play an important part on the website in the future, Ricochet has no video department at present.  "We avoided at this point setting up a video division, a video producer and editor," he said, "because we want to focus in the first year on doing the written journalism well, and phasing in the video and other online tools more slowly."

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