Credit: Image by Images_of_money on Flickr. Some rights reserved

New media outlet The Canary is seeking to provide a counterpoint to mainstream journalism by creating a publishing platform for writers that pays its staff from the bottom up. 

Kerry-anne Mendoza, editor-in-chief of The Canary, is calling for greater plurality within the news, believing today's media has become an echo chamber to mainstream ideas and practices, which are not speaking to, or for, the range of groups in society. 

"For us, this is ultimately about democracy," said Mendoza. 

"Informed consent in the public is the bedrock of democracy, and if that informed consent isn't there because people aren't aware of the kind of information that they need to be, they won't be equipped to make the decent democratic decisions that they need to, say, for example, on climate change, the justice system, or whether austerity is a positive economic policy."

The five founding members of The Canary are hoping the site's content will challenge the status quo by publishing media from a range of contributors, from journalists to academics to university students. 

"This is what we need to do to diversify our media," she said.

In order to encourage this range of writers to contribute to the site, the founders have developed a business model that pays half of the full earnings to its contributors, including income from advertisements and sponsorship deals.

The other 50 per cent is split between a small remuneration for three section editors, and the marketing budget.

The site, launched this autumn, currently has around twenty daily contributors.

"Writers give up the certainty of payment, so if their article is doing nothing, they earn nothing. But if they are willing to take the risk, the rewards mean they are being paid in line with the profit they generate for the business."

The company also hopes this way of paying staff and freelance writers will create new career paths for journalists, and tackle the increase of freelancers who are struggling to find work and earn a living in the competitive industry.

The Canary aims to inspire writers with the "potential of earning a full-time income on part-time hours," said Mendoza.

Finding alternative ways to pay writers has been the foundation of other news platforms launched recently, such as The News Hub, who only pays its top contributors in each category, or Blasting News, where fees are decided based on the engagement figures for each story.

At The Canary, permanent staff give freelancers an eight week trial with online training, in which they provide three articles a week to get 'publish-ready'. 

All the activity takes place within a virtual newsroom, where website staff are able to take on the roles in the standard newsroom structure, with copy editors and section editors for example.

They are hoping to expand in the future through podcasting, a YouTube channel, and a translation feature so people all over the world can write copy in their language to be translated by the site for readers all over the world.

"We are trying to generate an alternative media that is vibrant and robust, which upholds serious journalism ethics and practices," says Mendoza.

"We want more people doing this – we don't want to hog the market, we want people to realise this is the way we can diversify the media."

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