FactWire, a new outlet based in Hong Kong, has raised more than HKD 3 million (£253,000) to launch as an investigative news agency.
"We wanted to see if the public would support an independent and credible news source," Hiu-Tung Ng, founder of FactWire, told Journalism.co.uk.
Ng said the need for such an outlet came from the lack of politically and commercially independent news organisations in Hong Kong, most of which "rely heavily on advertising revenues".
He wanted to establish a news source that "is not a business, but a public service like the BBC in the UK", run by a trust and directing all revenues back to the news operation, as opposed to being for-profit.
"We're focusing on investigative journalism because there are too many news organisations pushing breaking news every hour," Ng said, "but there isn't much in depth information or context available for the audience."
As a news agency, FactWire will focus on investigating public affairs issues arising in the government, public institutions or NGOs, and other matters of public interest, producing news reports and multimedia material in English and Chinese.
FactWire launched its crowfunding campaign on FringeBacker in July, aiming to raise HKD 3 million (£253,000) and reached its target nine days before the deadline on August 18.
Since then, people have continued to back the project, contributing a current total of £377,892.We have interpreted our crowdfunding success as the public not only wanting us to establish FactWire, but also to be successfulHiu-Tung Ng, FactWire
Another independent, non-profit online publication called Hong Kong Free Press launched back in June after initially raising HKD 150,000 (£12,600), also through a FringeBacker campaign.
Ng said he was surprised to reach FactWire's target before the deadline, but "the miracle is that once that happened, the donations not only continued, but increased at a very fast pace".
He believes that "crowdfunding in journalism is not easy, because people have to trust the person who initiates the project and believe them capable of doing it".
Ng, who has been working as a journalist in Hong Kong for the past ten years and owns a press photo agency called EyePress, said transparency is also key.
"Neither I or EyePress own FactWire, it will belong entirely to the public, so I hope that will make people comfortable – knowing their money will be used only to recruit the best journalists."
FactWire is currently working on recruiting a team of ten researchers and reporters, including an editorial head for its investigative unit.
In the near future, Ng also plans to set up a trust that will run the entire news organisation independently.
In its first year, FactWire content will be freely available to news outlets based in Hong Kong, but also to the Asian editions of international news organisations like the BBC, CNN or the Wall Street Journal.
After that, Ng hopes the agency's main source of revenue will come from subscriptions purchased by news organisations.
"We have interpreted our crowdfunding success as the public not only wanting us to establish FactWire, but also to be successful."
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