The Bohemian is free in print and online. It’s going to stay that way. But we are a small staff and we want to do much more. That takes money. Independent, critical journalism is a public good and, I daresay, a key component of a functioning democracy. But competition for ad dollars, content aggregators and the proliferation of media channels have challenged local media outlets in profound ways. We are ready to meet the challenges, but it will require creativity, flexibility and reader support. Enter crowdfunded journalism.
The concept isn’t new. Several publications, like Propublica, the Guardian, the San Francisco Public Press and the Boston Review have reached out to readers as partners to help them produce stories that they would otherwise be unable to. In some ways, crowdfunded journalism reminds me of community supported agriculture, where a monthly or one-time fee goes to help grow nutritious, local food. In our case, we aim to produce local journalism that’s good for the body politic.
In the coming days, we’ll be launching a poll that will ask readers what subjects they’d like the Bohemian to cover in a more comprehensive way—and would they be willing to support to make it happen. Is the topic affordable housing? Local health care? The impacts of climate change? Crime and justice? I’m proposing to create a new, or expanded beat that covers the subject most valued by our readers and then ask readers, nonprofits and local businesses to help pay for that reporter’s salary. The funds will allow the reporter to dig into his or her beat for two years or more. Contributions would be held and disbursed by a nonprofit organization that will not only make your contributions tax deductible, but transparent. You’ll know exactly how your dollars are spent.
My commitment is to produce unique, locally based stories that matter to our readers and to make ourselves accountable in new ways. I’ll create a reader advisory group to receive feedback and criticism in an effort to make our reporting responsive to the readers we serve. That’s you.
So I ask again: what subject is most important to you and will you join us in making that reporting possible? Please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stett Holbrook is the group managing editor of Metro Newspapers