Press Start: Crowdfunding stories that matter

Do you live in a country where the media are not beholden to political or business interests? Where journalists are free to write they want, without fear of fines, beatings, imprisonment, or worse?

If so, consider yourself one of a privileged few – a mere 14 percent of the world’s population, according to Freedom House.

Today, the vast majority – more than six billion people – live in countries where journalists risk their careers, and sometimes lives, to report on governments, businesses, and other powers, exercising what is a democratic right in other nations.

But there are still those brave enough to do it anyway, despite the threats. They deserve our attention and support – especially as authoritarian states and movements grow bolder in the world and are ever more ready to clamp down on those who would hold them to account.

In response, we have introduced Press Start, the first global crowdfunding platform specifically created to fill that gap. This is a project designed to create a new and revolutionary way to fund independent journalism in emerging democracies and societies that are not free.

And now is the time for transformative initiatives. Without reporters serving as watchdogs, corruption and bad governance will flourish, anger will build among disgruntled and disenfranchised citizens and fragile states will continue to deteriorate, with unforeseen consequences for the rest of the world.

Yes, you are part of the solution.

Press Start is all about creating a new way to fund journalism in countries with nonexistent or struggling democracies, places where a quality free press is arguably needed the most. If you believe in that ambitious goal, please donate to get this project off the ground and sustain it.

The bigger the donation, the bigger the journalistic impact. But even small amounts are welcome. And even if you don’t have the means to donate, you can still play a crucial part in this movement by telling everyone you know about our plans. Every follower on Twitter, every friend on Facebook, every shared bit of news about Press Start increases the likelihood that our efforts will succeed.

Below, please find more details about the project.

Global press freedom has dropped to its lowest level in over a decade, with grave implications for democracy itself. Internet freedom, too, is in decline.

Yet considering the state of the world, the free flow of information has never been more crucial, and there are talented reporters everywhere who are willing to risk their careers, even their lives, to ensure it.

Among the threats they face:

  • Libel lawsuits or even violence if they dare to criticize top officials or investigate the business practices of politically connected companies.
  • Harassment of their families if they don’t back down.
  • Fabricated criminal charges designed to silence them.

Yet crippling political and financial pressures mean independent media struggle to survive, to produce quality journalism, or even to pay their reporters – no matter how skilled and courageous they are.

The result is that many of these journalists need to take side jobs – non-journalism-related – to make ends meet, or even quit the profession outright because they have no way to support their families. That represents a huge waste of potential that could be dedicated to investigating topics crucial to their societies. In effect, it’s not only the more immediate threats that keep many journalists from reporting important stories – it’s the simple lack of money.

This lack of vibrant, independent journalism in turn removes a key watchdog over governments and stunts democratic development.

Press Start will become the first global crowdfunding platform for reporters in countries where the press cannot report freely, potentially revolutionizing the way independent journalism is funded in the developing world and countries in transition.

The site will connect journalists seeking to report the stories important to their communities with people around the world who believe in a free press and appreciate its importance to democracy. These journalists put their careers and lives at risk to do their work, and they need the public’s attention and support to hold the powerful to account.

Past experiments in crowdfunding journalism have usually limited their ambitions to raising funds for a single project.

But Press Start will raise funds for a series of articles spread over several months, offering some stability and a lifeline for journalists working under difficult circumstances to practice the watchdog journalism so necessary for democratic development.

1. Identify the journalists

We’re teaming up with leading media development and training organizations to locate talented, dedicated journalists. They’ll vouch for and verify journalists according to their past performance, commitment to independent journalism, and potential to create wide-ranging impact with their reporting.

2. Profile the Journalists

Journalists who pass through the screening process will then create, with our help, detailed profiles on Press Start. They’ll describe the areas of coverage they want to pursue and the package of content they’ll deliver for the funding goal (whether features, news, investigations, multimedia, etc.)